GILFORD — Five Girl Scouts from Wolfeboro calling their team the Astro Llamas are proving that computer programming and robotics are something they can excel at as they qualified for state competition in FIRST Lego League.
During the Lego at the Lakes tournament at Gilford Middle School earlier this month, 18 teams of girls and boys in grades 4-8 took on the FLL challenge called Into Orbit. They had to use Lego Mindstorms robots to complete a series of programming tasks, such as setting a payload into motion and rolling down a ramp, ejecting a “brick” into a designated area, or moving “core samples” into a target circle.
The robots are small and do their work on a tabletop field. They are judged on their project presentation, core values (teamwork), their robot design (how well it works), and their robot score.
Miriam Lambert, Amelia Bickford, Avalyn Lambert, Adrianna Noel and Evelyn Hafner are making plans now to travel to Windham High School on Sunday, Dec. 2, for the New Hampshire championship, where up to 50 teams will compete.
The entire season runs from September through April. The Astro Llamas team has existed for four years now, with some members starting their experience at the FIRST Lego League Junior level.
Coach Briar Lambert said the girls “put their heads down and really dug in.” They went to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center to watch a planetarium show and met with the education director.
Since the subject of this year’s challenge was to identify a social or physical problem faced by humans during long space explorations, they focused on an astronaut’s mental wellbeing. They concentrated on isolation and depression, and concluded that astronauts would benefit from being able to keep up with their families while away. They proposed a virtual reality system that would let the space traveler “attend” family events, experience a family hike while on a treadmill, or go to the movies.
While the team experienced some setbacks during their robot presentation, they did well in the robot game. They also talked to other teams, including one team of girls who taught them some magic tricks.
“I am so proud of these girls,” said Lambert. “They worked very hard, learned new things and used all this to shine bright. This program pushed kids out of their comfort zone. It gives them the freedom to dream big and to work as a team. The work the Astro Llamas did was nothing short of amazing. I am honored to be able to work with them. We are grateful that the Girl Scout program gives us the chance to experience these STEAM-related fields.”
Funding for FIRST Lego League and FIRST Lego League Jr. teams has been provided by BAE and FIRST, and Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is encouraging more girls to join and form new teams, along with earning the many new robotics- and space-related badges released earlier this year. No special technical knowledge is required to either be on a team or to coach one, though an interest in science is helpful. The program offers assistance both technically and financially, and teams often mentor one another.
There are currently four FLL Girl Scout teams and six FLL Junior Girl Scout teams in New Hampshire.
Any girl interested in becoming involved in the FIRST Lego League teams through Girl Scouts is invited to email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 888-474-9686.