Whatcom County students advance in statewide robotics competition

Da Future team members get their score during the Dec. 3 competition in Mount Vernon.
Da Future team members get their score during the Dec. 3 competition in Mount Vernon. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Two teams of students from Bellingham earned top honors and advanced in the statewide robotics competition held recently in Mount Vernon.

Both teams qualified Dec. 3 for the Western Washington semifinals on Jan. 21-22, likely in Seattle, and are the first teams from Bellingham to reach that level in many years, said Jim Boyle of Bellingham, one of the coaches. The competition was sponsored by First Washington, which promotes mentor-based programs in science and technology.

The event was part of the national First Lego League competition, in which student teams and their coaches research a real-world problem such as food safety, recycling or energy, and must develop a solution. They also must design, build and program a robot using Lego Mindstorms.

It’s all done in front of an audience, Boyle said.

This year, there were 922 teams at several competitions across the state. The challenge was “Animal Allies,” where teams were asked to identify a problem when people and animals interact and to design a solution that makes the interaction better for animals, people or both.

Team Legondary, consisting of fifth-grade students and alumni from Samish Woods Montessori School, took top honors, winning the Champion’s Trophy. They also took the prize for achieving the top score for the robotics challenge. Team Legondary focused on the problem of harbor seals preying on fishers’ nets, and looked for a solution that would not harm harbor seals. Their idea involved playing orca noises underwater near fishing nets to scare away seals.

Team Da Future – composed of Whatcom County eighth-graders who are friends but not affiliated with a particular school – won the Core Values Trophy, which is awarded for teamwork, inspiration and gracious professionalism. Da Future team members were concerned about wolf-cow interactions in Eastern Washington that resulted in the culling of the Purgatory wolf pack. They developed the idea of using drones that were connected to radio collars on wolves to scare wolves away from grazing areas.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-756-2805, @BhamMitty