WCU-sponsored team wins trophy at regional robotics competition

Team Ogelbots members, from left, Todd Martin, Ethan Swartzentruber, Gavin Sterka and Paul Heckert practice at WCU for the inaugural Mountain Region FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition.

Team Ogelbots members, from left, Todd Martin, Ethan Swartzentruber, Gavin Sterka and Paul Heckert practice at WCU for the inaugural Mountain Region FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition.

Western Carolina University-sponsored Team Ogelbots took home the championship trophy for overall competition from the inaugural Mountain Region FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition on Saturday, Jan. 20.

To help spark excitement for science and technology, the competition invited teams of 9- to 14-year-olds to tackle creative challenges, including modifying and programming a robot to complete tasks, such as pushing a LEGO truck onto a lift. Another challenge involved exploring how concepts such as nano technology could be used.

“Team Ogelbots worked well under pressure and really used good team work to solve everything put in front of them,” said Lisa Bloom, head of the human services department at WCU and a team coach. “Their PowerPoint and stop-motion video about using nano technology for spinal cord repair was a hit.”

The team, which drew members from Cullowhee Valley School and Mountain Discovery Charter School, practiced in a lab on campus at Western and was coached by Bloom and Bob Houghton, head of the birth to kindergarten, elementary and middle grades education department.

Houghton said the experience has been so positive that a summer workshop is being planned to help teachers in the region learn more about how the project could benefit their students.

Ethan Swartzentruber, 11, a student at Mountain Discovery Charter School in Bryson City, said the team’s project reminded him of activities from a summer creativity camp.

“This is harder,” Swartzentruber said. “But, it’s more fun, too.”