St. Pat’s RoboCats team of fifth and sixth graders to compete virtually in FIRST® Lego League Challenge State Championship this Saturday


Programming the robot ... St. Patrick School students Raymond Sweeney, Elijah Weighner, Tate Ellingson and Jakob Schulte (left to right) work to program the St. Pat’s RoboCats robot to perform a variety of tasks on the challenge mat laid out before them. The four young men are part of the St. Pat’s RoboCats team that has qualified for the FIRST® Lego League Challenge State Championship being hosted virtually by Iowa State University this Saturday, March 27. Submitted photo.

Tasks to test the robot ... St. Patrick School students Ashley Hennessy and Katie Regan (left to right) set up one of many tasks on a challenge mat for the St. Pat’s RoboCats robot to perform. The two young ladies are part of the St. Pat’s RoboCats team that has qualified for the FIRST® Lego League Challenge State Championship being hosted virtually by Iowa State University this Saturday, March 27. Submitted photo.

The St. Pat’s RoboCats robotics team from St. Patrick School in Waukon has qualified for the virtual FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League Challenge State Championship to be hosted by the College of Engineering at Iowa State University. Under the guidance of St. Patrick School fourth grade teacher Loretta Schafer, the RoboCats will be one of 31 teams from across the state of Iowa competing in this virtual event being held this Saturday, March 27, with the RoboCats team scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. competition time with Judge 4, according to Schafer. FIRST® Lego League officials say only about 25% of teams from across the state get the opportunity to compete in the State competition.

The 2020-2021 St. Pat’s RoboCats team is made up of sixth grade students Tate Ellingson, Ashley Hennessy, Katie Regan and Elijah Weighner and fifth grade students Jakob Schulte and Raymond Sweeney. That hardworking half dozen was one of four teams to advance to this year’s State competition from a Regional Qualifier event featuring 24 teams earlier this month and will be one of the younger teams competing this year, as Schafer says most other teams are made up of middle school students.

Those who wish to attend the virtual event and watch the RoboCats perform this Saturday can do so through a Zoom link that will be posted on the St. Patrick School website yet this week, prior to Saturday’s competition. That Zoom link, competition schedule and other information about the St. Pat’s RoboCats, including a video of some of the work they’ve been performing, can be found on that school website at https://www.stpatswaukon.com.

Every year FIRST® Lego League releases a new challenge  based on a real-world, scientific theme.  This year’s challenge theme is called RePlay and focuses on playing and becoming more active. In response to that challenge, the RoboCats built a robot and programmed it to complete missions on a challenge mat full of tasks built out of Lego bricks for this year’s competition season.

The team is also encouraged to undertake a project to put the theme into practice within their community. This year the team is launching their RePlay project, “Q-Up for Good Health!”, at the Waukon Wellness Center. The project involves a QR code seek-n-find game that keeps people moving around the Wellness Center searching for 18 different QR codes that are linked to a website developed by the RoboCat team members with 18 different health tips and information which encourages and educates participants to lead healthy lifestyles.

The mission of FIRST® is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership. The methodology used by FIRST® includes engaging grades PreK-12 (ages 4-18) students in exciting, mentor-based research and robotics programs that help them become science and technology leaders, as well as well-rounded contributors to society.

FIRST® uses strategies known to increase student interest in STEM: hands-on learning, working as a team on real-life problems, exposure to careers and adult mentors, emphasis on FIRST® Core Values, and a culminating celebration where students can showcase what they created and learned. The goal of FIRST® is to have participants also develop skills in teamwork, problem solving and communication, preparing them for success in school and the workforce, no matter what path they take.

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