Robotics team receives top honor

After six weeks of intense programming and research, the LLAMAs (short for Lincoln Laboratory Armageddon Machine Activists) won the Champion's Award—the most prestigious award bestowed on the group that demonstrates not only technical performance, but also teamwork, respect, and gracious professionalism. The Lincoln Laboratory robotics team of 11- to 13-year-olds participating in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League battled in Massachusetts' largest regional competition in November, placing first overall and tenth in robot design out of more than 60 teams. The teams compete in the categories of robotic design, team sportsmanship, research and presentation, and floor competition.

 Lincoln Laboratory FTC teamDuring a practice session, team members consider the order of robotic tasks to be completed within a two-and-a-half-minute time frame.

The eight-member team sponsored by Robotics Outreach at Lincoln Laboratory (ROLL) is coached by Jonathan Williams (Homeland Protection and Tactical Systems Group), Sheryl Ellis (Seeker and Interceptor Technology Group), and David Tardiff (Mechanical Engineering), and mentored by a high-school student on the Lincoln Laboratory Robotics Team, MITiBot, in the high school division.

FIRST Lego League officials estimate 146,000 children in more than 50 countries will investigate robotic solutions to modern transportation problems in addressing the research portion of the 2009 theme, "Smart Moves."

Photo of the team's robotTwo LLAMA team members helm their robot's navigation of the challenge course during competition.

The LLAMA's research project on the problem of accidents due to drowsiness was inspired by their interview with an expert in the field, Mr. Stephen O'Donnell, Director of Highway Maintenance, Highway Division, Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Mr. O'Donnell provided National Highway Traffic Safety Administration research that teen drivers accounted for over 7,000 fatalities nationwide in 2007. This fact led the LLAMAs to publish a driving safety brochure for local high school students and create potential solutions to circumvent the problem of drowsy teen drivers.

The robotic design portion of the 'Smart Moves' challenge involves programming a Lego Mindstorms robot to complete a series of tasks such as transporting people, moving a truck off a ramp, and avoiding or surviving impacts. The challenge focuses on gaining access to people, places, goods, and services in the safest, most efficient way possible.

As the Champion's Award winner, the LLAMAs were viewed as a role model for the FIRST program, exemplifying collaboration, cooperation, and coordination at the state championship tournament where they ranked among the top five teams in the state.

Posted December 2009

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