Franklin Robotics Team Making Waves
The Franklin STEAMing Knights, Franklin STEAM Academy’s LEGO robotics team, will compete in the state championship tournament on January 26! The team advanced at the qualifiers held at the University of Illinois on December 1, competing against eight other teams in the region.
“We’re just in our second year, and it’s fascinating to see these kids’ minds at work,” says team coach Zanne Newman.
The competitions are sponsored by FIRST LEGO League (FLL), a worldwide science and technology program that encourages kids to create ideas, solve problems, and overcome obstacles while gaining confidence. Each year, FLL announces a challenge based on a real-world scientific topic. This year’s theme, Into Orbit, invites teams to identify a problem faced by humans during long periods in space, design a solution, and share the problem and solution with others. Using LEGO technology, “the team designs, builds, and programs a robot,” explains Newman. “Then they demonstrate to the judges their understanding of what they built—and why.”
“The greatness is that kids learn so much by working together,” Newman says. “Teams learn to research and attribute their facts and data to the right sources. They explore solutions that do and don’t work, all while adhering to a set of core values referred to as ‘gracious professionalism.’”
“We got a lot of support,” remarks Newman about this year’s experience. “During the season, we recruited two U of I mentors to talk to the team, an aeronautical engineer and a kinesiology PhD student, who talked about the way muscles are taxed in space.”
How often does the team meet? “We start out the year meeting once a week for two to three hours, then add practices as the competition gets closer.” Newman says. One coach, she says, even set up her home for students to work on the robot over school break.
The STEAMing Knights consist of an A team and B team, with 14 students from all grade levels. “This fall, thirty-one students tried out,” Newman explains. “It’s pretty challenging. To make it, students complete technical challenges, come to every meeting, and do research on our team.”
If students don’t make the team, Franklin hosts LEGO club for all kids, led by Spanish teacher Blanca Bustos. “We’re hoping to establish a training team in the spring to help prepare more kids try out next fall,” Newman says. “I’d love to see more underrepresented students try out. Who knows—next year, we could grow to four teams!”