Three Cheyenne Mountain School District 12 robotics teams have qualified for the FIRST Lego League Colorado state championship. The tournament, sponsored yearly by the FIRST global robotics community and the Lego Group, will be held Dec. 7 at the University of Colorado at Denver Student Wellness Center.

On Saturday, Nov. 16, the three D-12 teams — the Skyway Elementary Skybots; The Techneers; and the Cheyenne Mountain Junior High School Thunderbots — were among a field of 48 teams competing in the Southern Colorado Qualifier at Coronado High School in Colorado Springs.

Only teams that excel in all the judging areas (Robot Design/Technical Interview, Core Values/Teamwork, and Innovative Project) move on to compete at the Colorado State Championship. They must also rank high in the robot game.

The Techneers and the Thunderbots qualified for the state tournament with 4th and 6th place finishes in the robot challenge, respectively. Additionally, the Techneers received a trophy in the Technical Interview area for their Robot Design, which recognizes uniquely built attachments and creative programming and coding skills.

For the Innovative Project, the Techneers received “exemplary” marks from judges as they tackled a specific local issue entitled “Sustainability and the Reduction of Carbon Emissions within Cheyenne Mountain School District 12,” while the Thunderbots conducted research and proposed solutions related to carbon capture.

In addition to the Techneers and Thunderbots, the Piñon Valley Elementary School team, Wolfpack Robotics, qualified for the state championship at a 24-team El Paso County qualifier held at Janitell Junior High School Nov. 9.

The FIRST Lego League state championship is an international competition for 9- to 14-year-olds that introduces a scientific and real-world challenge for teams of 2-10 students. The robotics portion of the competition involves designing and programming LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robots to complete tasks in 150 seconds per round with the highest point value of three rounds being their score.

Students also have to come up with an innovative solution to a problem related to the annual theme and share their findings while being guided by the FLL Core Values (discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun) and STEM principles (science, technology, engineering and math). This year’s theme is “City Shaper,” which challenges students to identify, research, solve, and share a problem related to helping cities, towns, and places they call home. Teams have five minutes to present their findings, followed by 10 minutes of questioning.

The Techneers are coached by Skyway Elementary School Librarian Deedle Murray, who said, “My team especially impressed me when they could’ve rested on their laurels and guaranteed a Top 3 finish and additional trophy in the robot game, but instead decided for Round 3 to allow two members who didn’t get a chance to run their programs earlier because of time. They took a risk because it was more important for them to be inclusive and kind, and that is worth so much more than a trophy. The Techneers truly embody what it means to be a team.”

The Thunderbots are coached by CMJH teacher Laura Koselak whose team dressed as Jedi Knights because of the “Star Wars: Force for Change” tie-in with FLL, wishing fellow teams, “May the Force Be with You Today.”

Koselak said, “This diverse team of 7th and 8th graders faced continual setbacks ... but the team persevered, bonded, and found the answers needed to set them up to qualify for State. It was through determination, division of labor and a lot of hard work that they were able to solve their problems as a team and this is what impressed the judges, earning them ‘exemplary’ almost across the board for their Core Values Component.”

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