Shelton to send five robotics teams to state championship

Five First LEGO League teams from Shelton are preparing to compete in the state competition that will take place this Saturday, Dec. 2, at the city’s high school.

With some old and new faces participating this time around, the district’s robotics teams picked up right where they left off in 2016 with hard work and long hours.

At a training session hosted at the high school earlier in the week, members from the returning state champion team, SIStematics and one of their coaches, Jim Daxner, worked tirelessly to perfect a few of their “robot runs” for Saturday’s competition against approximately 50 other teams from around the state.

After being assigned the task of having to invent something to address a global issue last year, teams this year have to create something that addresses hydrodynamics or the manner in which humans find, transport, save, and dispose of water.

“Basically, we had to create something that addresses the human water cycle,” said SIStematics team member Connor Dapp, who believes that the team’s experience winning states in 2016 will help it in this year’s competition.

SIStematics designed a special net to help reduce the number of bycatches of dolphin in 2016, but this year decided to create something that could be applied locally.

“It’s called the ‘Irrigation Improver 3530,’ and it gets rid of algae in pond or lake water,’” said Dapp.

According to fellow team member Diya Patel, dealing with algae is a problem that farmer Terry Jones and other farmers in the area have experienced.

“The algae in their ponds gets caught in the irrigation filtration system, which takes time to unclog, and farmers need their time because time is money, after all,” said Patel.

New year, new approach

After making it all the way to the International Championships in St. Louis last year, the SIStematics switched up their robot design to something simpler, but yet more complex.

The team’s lead builder, Josh Mallette, said the team decided on a box robot design this year, which was more complex to build but allows the team to more easily attach parts to the robots that are needed for specific missions.

“It’s more simple to operate once built, but it took a long time to get it to that point,” said coach Daxner.

Mallett said it took the team two weeks to design the robot completely.

But SIStematics is not the only Shelton team to have been working long hours in preparation for the state level of competition.

The combination of sixth and seventh grade members that make up team PerSIStence have also been working late and also feel confident about their chances of winning at the state competition.

Aside from all the hours the team has spent making tweaks to its robot runs and strategies, team PerSIStence also has mentors with experience competing in First LEGO League. One of the team’s two mentors, Shelton High School senior Jacob Zamani, received the John A. Baffa Outstanding Mentor Award at the regional competition in New Haven.

Jacob’s younger brother, Gabriel, said having his brother as a team mentor has made all the difference. PerSIStence also won the team Core Value Award at the regional competition.

The other three teams from Shelton that will be competing in states this weekend are the Perry Hill Predators, the Brainiacs, and the LEGO Leopards.

Team goals for states

Despite all the teams from Shelton wanting to win the state competition, they all said another one of their goals is to just have fun. With all the pressure on them, it can get tough at times, but PerSIStence team member Mary Pavliouk, a seventh grader, said making sure that all the team feels involved and welcome is a top priority.

“Whether we lose or win, that’s my goal for the competition,” said Pavliouk.

The self-proclaimed “sister team” of the SIStematics, PerSIStence came up with its team name because it connects with its mind-set for competition.

“We chose the name PerSIStence because we know that’s what we’ll need to do to be successful in this competition,” said SIS seventh grader and PerSIStence team member Luke Sandborn.

With just days until the competition, each team member is thinking of what needs to be done between now and then.

PerSIStence member Ben DeMartino said the team needs to assign roles to its team members so that in competition everyone knows what they their set job is. Prior to this week of preparing for states, DeMartino said, all of the team members’ responsibilities varied.

“We’ve all really been doing a bit of everything,” said DeMartino.

Shelton teams will have home court advantage on Saturday and said they hope to see support from people from all over the city. Team PerSIStence said that on the night before Saturday’s competition, it purposely will not have practice so that team members can get to bed early so they’re rested for competition.