Although none of the four Shelton teams took home the championship prize at the 12th annual FIRST Lego League (FLL) competition, they did make it known the city is a force in the world of robotics.
FIRST is an acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”
In this year’s competition the 46 participating teams of 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th graders from all around the state used their programmed robots to address issues regarding trash. The teams competed against one another on an array of tables setup as playing fields where their robots had to complete simulated tasks.
The teams were then judged on a point system on their robot’s ability to complete the tasks as well as their ability to work together.
At the end of the competition, all 4 of the participating Shelton teams walked away with awards.
The Brainiacs were recognized for their teamwork and participation, the Perry Hill Predators were awarded the Presentation Award, the Dominators won Best Robot Performance as well as the Programming Award, and the Circuit Breakers won 3rd place in the Championship Award category.
Shelton High School’s gymnasium was filled with supporters, students, and volunteers while the competition was underway.
Mayor Mark Lauretti was of those in attendance and gave a speech prior to the giving of the awards where he spoke on the importance of the students turning their passion for robotics into careers that could impact the world.
“I’ve been attending this competition for years now and it never ceases to amaze me the level of energy in the room, if that isn’t what learning is about than I don’t know what is,” said Lauretti. “While some people may not understand what this competition is all about, to me it is about building the next generation of scientists and professionals that can compete on a global scale.”
Shelton robotics advisor and volunteer John Niski agreed and said he was proud of the four teams’ performances as they proved to be competitors among the 46 teams who participated.
He has been involved with robotics for 18 years and said he believes one of the students could win a Nobel prize in the future.
Niski was also one the volunteers awarded during this year’s competition.
He explained that although he was honored to be given Volunteer of the Year award, the program owes its success to the participation of the other volunteers as well as the dedication of the young students.
“It was humbling for me, but the volunteers and parents who are involved that really who make this all possible,” said Niski. “We are giving these kids to do something they really want to do. For a lot of these kids, this is ‘their thing’ so they put just as much effort, time, and dedication into the robotics program as any basketball player, band member, football player, or drama person puts into their activity. We get these quality kids that are ready to give it their all which translates into the program’s success.”
Niski has a son on the 8th grade team, the Dominators and said the team members were more disappointed that the competition was over than not winning. Niski said he hopes to see the participants entering high school continue their robotics careers.
“Much like the football team the FLL program acts as a feeder program,” said Niski. “As the team’s members move along to high school our hope is that they join the robotics team and carry on the results that we have seen in the past.”