By COLLEEN MCCARTHY
After placing second in the state competition earlier in the school year, Armstrong Middle School’s Gladiator Lego Robotics team will face off against teams from around the world at the First Lego League international competition in May.
Both AMS teams, the Gladiators and the Shadow Ninjas, under the guidance of teacher Jackie Wilt, competed at the state level earlier this school year. Because the Gladiators — made up of students Montario Montgomery, Lucas Elder, Bryton Heiselt, Patrick Bell and Navin Soloman — placed second overall, the team was invited to compete at the international level at the University of Southern Florida Polytechnic.
The Gladiators will be the only team from Mississippi represented in the competition.
The robotics program at AMS started out just last year as a club. It became a class this school year and has grown rapidly in both participation and success.
“I am just so very proud of this group. To be invited to an international tournament is beyond our wildest dreams,” Wilt said. “I believe that it is an honor to represent not only our school but our city and our state as well. Regardless of how the competition goes, the invitation alone speaks volumes.”
The Lego competition challenges the teams to build and program a robot to complete a series of challenges in an obstacle course. The team will have no control over the robot once it is on the course so they have to rely on the path they’ve programed into the robot.
“Each of the missions depend on the others. If you mess up on one mission, you can mess up all the others,” Bell said. “We’re just hoping all the missions go according to plan.”
The teams also have to conduct a research project on the subject of food safety. Each team will have a booth and a research paper to present at the competition.
Schools across the country and over 60 countries worldwide participate in the First Lego League. In May, the Gladiators will compete against teams from Japan, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Bermuda, Canada and several other countries.
“I’m most excited about meeting people from around the world and just having fun,” Montgomery said.
When they advanced to the international level, the students knew they were going to have to step it up.
“We had planned to stay simple, but since we were going international we had to make it more complicated because we have to make an impression,” Heiselt said.
The robots are designed, built and programed by the students. Each team may approach the challenge in a completely different way.
“I’m excited to see how complicated the other teams make their robots. Since it’s an international competition, it’s going to be really cool and complex,” Elder said.
Although the Shadow Ninja team members won’t be joining their classmates in Florida, they have been helping the Gladiators prepare for battle.
“We cannot do this without them. They have been helping find costumes, writing letters, making knickknacks for us to take down,” Wilt said. “They have been a tremendous help.”
The AMS Gladiators will be at Monday’s Jacket Jam event at the Greensboro Center to show off their accomplishments. The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. and will showcase some of the Starkville School District’s achievements over the last year.
Wilt said although she would love to see the team do well in the competition, the whole experience will be a wonderful learning opportunity for the students.
The team is still seeking sponsors to help cover the costs for the competition. For more information, contact Jackie Wilt at firstname.lastname@example.org .