The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

January 16, 2013

Athens Robot Team nabs first-place award

By Kim West

— In its first year of competition, the Athens Robot Team earned a first-place trophy at the FIRST Lego League state tournament in Huntsville Saturday.

ART placed first among 36 teams in the Gracious Professionalism category during the three-round robotics tournament at Grissom High School. The team also recorded a perfect score of 250 points during the first run of the robot performance category.

FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, oversees Lego League competitions. Teams are required to focus on a real-world, scientific topic, and this year’s theme was “Senior Solutions.”

Gracious professionalism is a phrase coined by FIRST national advisor Dr. Woodie Flowers, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT. The phrase refers to “a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others and respects individuals and the community,” according to the national FIRST website.

The judging phase of competition includes a team interview and a robot design presentation, while the robot portion showcases a research project presentation and a live robot demonstration.

“Our team performed very well but didn’t score high enough to place in the robot performance category,” said Andy Grose, who coaches the team with fellow engineer and team parent Jeff Biggs.

Team practices were held Sunday afternoons at the Robotics Technology Park at Calhoun Community College. ART members include Brookhill Elementary third-grader Adam Biggs and fourth-graders Drew Grose, Jake Collins and Grant Metcalfe and Athens Intermediate School sixth-grader Benjamin Carlotta.

ART advanced to state after placing in the top 13 at the FLL regional tournament Nov. 10. The team placed second in robot performance and third in the research project division.

“Our plans for the rest of this year (are) to work on learning more advanced programming methods suing the robot’s sensors,” said Grose. “We plan to be much more prepared when the next challenge is announced in August.”