In late August, six Whitewater elementary school teachers and two Whitewater Middle School teachers launched into the world of FIRST LEGO League Robotics with 30 of their students forming three teams and following in the footsteps of Justin Stewart and Bennett Miles, who formed the original Lincoln Elementary Team in 2018. FIRST LEGO League is a program for students ages 9 – 14 with “theme-based challenges to engage children in research, problem solving, coding, and engineering. The foundation of the program is the FIRST Core Values, which emphasize teamwork, discovery, and innovation.” The 2019 theme was City Shapers, and teams worked to research a problem in the community and propose a solution as well as build a LEGO EV3 robot and program it to accomplish up to 13 missions on the game board.
Valerie Troxel and Chris Nate from Washington, Lassity Sullivan and Lynn von Huben from Lincoln, and Sara Brautigam and Lisa Meincke from Lakeview each brought students together to form two elementary teams, Whitewater Brick Layers – Team White and Whitewater Brick Layers – Team Red. Joanne Kyle and Joanie McGowan worked together to oversee the middle school team. The elementary teams met on Monday and Wednesday nights at the middle school, and the middle school team, Cranium Crows, met on Wednesdays and Thursdays from mid-September through November 20. Members of the Whitewater High School FIRST Robotics Team Ferradermis assisted throughout the season. Reilly Aschenbrener and Shane Kinson worked with the middle school students, while Carson Ellenwood, Zuri Goldsmith, Colin Chenoweth, Elijah Grall, Rosie Aschenbrener, Kasey Heizman, and Rose Fosdal worked with the elementary students with Gwynne Sahyun providing some planning and guidance behind the scenes.
On Saturday, November 23, the teams packed up and headed to Mukwonago High School for a FIRST LEGO League Regional Tournament. Close to 40 teams from southern Wisconsin rotated through three sets of judging where the teams spent 10 minutes each with the robot/programming judges, the project judges, and the core values judges during the morning. In the core values judging room, the team was given three minutes to complete a problem solving activity while the judges observed teamwork and communication skills. The judges then asked the students many questions about their season including how they made decisions as a team. In the project judging room, the teams presented their chosen projects to the judges along with their display boards; the middle school team looked at changes to the dog park, and the elementary teams looked at changes to the busing for the schools and access to a grocery store in Whitewater.
After lunch and the opening ceremony, in which two students from each team raced through the gym in front of the large crowd as their team was introduced, the competition with the robots began. Each team competed three times over the course of the afternoon. A single match was timed at two minutes and thirty seconds, and teams could use that time to complete their chosen missions in any order.
Throughout the day, teams were able to schedule time on the practice tables to test their robots and make improvements and additions to their code. By their third match, all three Whitewater teams were able to accomplish more tasks with their robots than when they arrived in Mukwonago.
Middle school team members included Margaret Brown, Emerson Dunham, Danny Fuller, Jessica Ge, Henry Gehrenbeck, Jack Hartmann, Isaiah Hoefling, Ash Holmbo, Evan Humphrey, and Daniel Norman. The Middle School Cranium Crows’ robot was able to complete all of the 6 missions that they expected to complete. Mrs. Kyle commented, “As a newbie team we were proud of our accomplishments and learned a lot about the process and the event.” Whitewater Brick Layers – Team Red consisted of fourth and fifth graders Roy Aaron, Ian Agen, Malcolm Baker, Emilie Bruns, Ben Crone, Jacob McLaughlin, Xavier Ortiz, Austin Retzlaff, Davis Staller, and Zoe Zei. Whitewater Brick Layers – Team White was made up of fourth and fifth graders Althea Reichwald, Micaiah Cartwright, James Grabinski, Cooper Housel, Eli Kuzoff, Aidan Lefel , Payton Peacock, Hailey Peterson, Jesus Ramirez, and Autumn Robb. Ferradermis member Gwynne Sahyun and multiple Ferradermis mentors also enjoyed volunteering at the event.
The teams would like to thank their sponsors Generac, The Whitewater Community Foundation, and the Whitewater Unified School District. They are looking forward to the 2020 fall season!