The Techno Waffles is one of two teams at LaBelle Middle School (LMS) and together with the Pyro Pancakes, competed against 26 other teams on Saturday, January 12. There are three areas of competition and the top scorers would move on to Plant City for the regional event. The three areas of competition are Core Values, Project, and Robot Games.
During the first portion of the event, the Core Values of the organization were utilized by the students as they solved a problem in front of judges that scored the teams using a rubric. The activity that students had to accomplish at the event was not complicated, but it showed how well teams were able to work together. The exercise had one of the team members examine a prebuilt structure made of Legos for thirty seconds then communicate how to rebuild the same structure using a bag of Lego pieces. The other team members were not allowed to view the prebuilt model and the team member that examined the structure was not allowed to speak or make any noise when directing his teammates on how to rebuild it. The Techno Waffles worked so well together that they received a Teamwork Award as well as the golden ticket that advanced them to the regional event.
The second area of the competition, the Project, is theme related and gets the students working on solving real world problems. This year’s theme is “Into Orbit” and the students were tasked with coming up with a solution to problems that astronauts face when traveling for extended periods of time in space. The Techno Waffles decided to tackle the problem of loneliness, anxiety, and depression that astronauts may develop as they travel for weeks and months at a time as we get closer to traveling to other planets in our solar system. Their solution was to use Virtual Reality goggles and haptic suits to simulate the experience of being somewhere else that is more familiar to the astronaut. These VR scenes included the astronaut’s home or perhaps a vacation on the beach. Together with the haptic suit, an astronaut may be able to experience the simulated change in environment and become more relaxed and the negative psychological effects of separation and isolation may be negated. This solution was presented to a group of judges and was again scored using a rubric.
The final part of the competition is the most exciting for the students. The Robot Games is where each team has built and programmed a robot to accomplish missions on a Robot Game Table. The table is different each year, and the missions are theme related. At the beginning of the season, each team orders a game table set up and has to build the components that the robot will interact with. Each team in the entire organization is using the same set up to practice on and the same tables are set up at the competition, matching the ones they use when they practice. Each mission varies in difficulty and as such, are assigned different points. The teams had two and a half minutes to accomplish as many missions as possible, receiving points for each of the missions they successfully completed.
Both teams at LMS would like to thank the sponsors that made this experience possible. A special thanks to A. Duda & Son’s, Johnson Engineering, and Rock Enterprises. These companies are forward thinking and recognize the importance of supporting the future scientists, engineers, and problem solvers. Also, a special thanks to Tara Sherrod for the support and time she has given as a co-coach to these teams. Good luck Techno Waffles at the Regional Competition on February 23!