By programming their own machines and working toward solving real-world issues, nine students from Dodge Intermediate School are taking their science and technology skills to a state level competition.
The First Lego League, a partnership between First Robotic Competition and Lego construction toys, challenges students between the ages of 9 and 14 to grow and apply their science and engineering knowledge in an international competition. Teams use specialized Lego sets to design, program and build their own robotic creations.
The Blue Dolphin team from Dodge Intermediate has already won regional and district competitions in Solon and Akron and is now set to tackle the state competition at Wright State University in Dayton on Feb. 9-10.
"Our team's ready for it, we can take it," said team member Anish Ganesh. "We worked really hard over the course of the season and we spent a lot of time on this. We cannot give up now."
One of the top two teams will go from the state competition to the nationals in California, while the other will go to internationals in Germany.
According to Dodge coach Raghu Gowdu, the tournament involves robot programming and design, senior assistance and core values. Core values instilled by the competitions include an appreciation for professionalism, friendly competitive spirit, teamwork and of course, having fun.
The Blue Dolphin team partnered with senior citizens from the Twinsburg area to explore solutions to issues facing seniors today, including staying active and living with arrhythmia or Alzheimer's.
"There are skills [the students] are learning that will be useful for their lives," Gowdu said. "Anything from core values … gracious professionalism, having fun and also competing hard in everything you do. They're learning now how to interact and work not only within the team, but with other teams also."
Gowdu's daughter and team member Rachita agreed, saying the time on the team has fed her interest in science and learning new things.
"I really enjoyed thinking of all the ideas to add to our project," she said. "Our project is the body-monitoring watch. It reminds you to take your medication at the right time, and it also checks your pulse to see if there are any irregularities. It was really cool."
The Dodge team also met with science and technology faculty at Case Western University to learn more about applied science and professional technology development.
Competition was healthy at the district competition at the University of Akron Jan. 12 and 13, with more than 30 teams in the running. The Blue Dolphin team came out as one of eight left standing.
"I was a bit nervous, but I was pretty confident," said team member Vedha Muvva. "[The judges] said we were really good at core values. Have fun, don't always depend on your mentors, have gracious professionalism and always be cooperative."
Having practiced and competed since spring 2012, the team from Dodge is ready for state, said Gowdu.
"They're really working hard," he said. "They're putting 100 percent effort into this. The team and I are confident, but in any case, we're going to have fun there."
Win or lose, the team members understand that learning is the most important thing. However, that won't keep them from giving it all they have.
"I'm kind of nervous, this is our second year ... so it's our first time going to state," Rachita added. "But I'm pretty confident, too."