VIPER — The First Lego League held a state robotics competition at the Northern Kentucky University on Feb. 6. Viper Elementary’s team “Rockin’ Robo Hornets” took part in the competition and won third place. 48 teams competed. They beat out other schools that had more funding and school’s that were able to practice more each week. An accomplishment Head Coach Jackie Caudill and Assistant Coach Julia Williams believe is due because of their students dedication and commitment to the team. The team is in their fourth year.
The Rockin’ Robo Hornets had previously took second place at a regional competition held at The Challenger Learning Center in December. They missed the first place spot by a tenth of a point.
The team members include: Darcy Bernat, Kayleigh Riley, Matthew Sexton, Kaylee Hoskins, Andy Riley, Annabelle Dalton, Ashton Hall, Daniel Hoskins, Jason Riley and Ryan Whitaker.
The FLL only allows teams to have 10 members. Currently, there is 273 FFL teams in the state.
The students range in grade from fourth to eight grade at Viper Elementary.
The coaches of the Rockin’ Robo Hornets are: Jackie Caudill, Julia Williams, Jack Caudill and Stephanie Sexton.
The competition was split into four different competition areas.
The first area was the robot games. During the robot games, the Rockin’ Robo Hornets had to program an autonomous robot. The robot would compete missions on a table during a two and a half minute run.
The second area the team competed in was a presentation of a research project performed in front of judges at the competition. The research project had to include four different types of information. This year, they performed a play about The Grinch. They had to memorize lines. They also had to share what they found out about the project throughout the season with as many people as they could. The team also made a parody video of “Uptown Funk” on YouTube. They also created a team song that they wrote their own lyrics for.
The third area was core values. This competition consisted of the team being given a random task that they did not know of in advance and they had to complete it within five minutes. They also had to tell about their growth as a team and how they use the core values in their everyday life.
The final competition was robotic design. The team had to appear before a group of mechanical engineers and present their robot. The team discussed the build of the robot, the design of the motors, attachments and sensors.
“We didn’t know we would be this competitive at the state level. We knew we had gotten a lot better and we were pleased to get to go again. We were just happy with the progress we have made,” said Head Coach Jackie Caudill.
“This is what makes them winning greater, because these kids are at such a disadvantage being in a smaller school and smaller community. The fact that we went up against these big schools that have all this extra help. They won. They competed with the best of them,” said Assistant Coach Julia Williams.
When Viper Elementary asked Caudill to coach the team four years ago, she had never been to a robotics match or never seen a robot before.
“I prayed real hard,” answered Caudill after being asked how she prepared for the coaching position.
Caudill said she had six kids in some of her classes that she thought would be interested in joining the robotics team.
“I let them know that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I was willing to learn it with them if they were willing to learn it with me, we would kind of go on this adventure together. We just kind of drove right in,” said Caudill.
The Challenger Learning Center was a big help to the Rockin’ Robo Hornets, Caudill said.
Andy Riley, a sixth grader at Viper, said that what he liked most about the team was how it helped him make friends.
“I’ve really came to enjoy it… I like hanging out with these guys and helping out with projects,” said Riley.
What sets the robotics competitions different from sporting competitions is the cooperation the teams have with one another. It is a friendly competition where each team helps one another.
This year, The Rockin’ Robo Hornets were able to pay it forward by helping the teams at Willard Elementary and R.W. Combs in Perry County. They helped advise and answer questions both Willard and R.W. Combs had about robotics.
They also donated an old robotics table to R.W. Combs.
“To work as a team, that is a big thing in robotics. Also, that everyone’s plan be considered, that no one should be left out,” said eighth grader Matthew Sexton.
Sexton has been with the team for three years, but he will be leaving the team at the end of the school year.
The Rockin’ Robo Hornets would like to thank Viper Elementary, the parents, the other teams who have helped them, Challenger Learning Center and their sponsors.
TJ Caudill can be reached at 606-629-3245 or on Twitter @TJHazardHerald.