Santee students represent community at Lego Robotics tournament

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Santee United Methodist Church sent a team of two to the First Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League – Southern California Robotics League Qualifying Tournament, or scrimmage, on Feb. 24, at Legoland in Carlsbad. 

Santee United Methodist Church sent a team of two to the First Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League – Southern California Robotics League Qualifying Tournament, or scrimmage, on Feb. 24, at Legoland in Carlsbad. 

The scrimmage, a robotics competition, was noted as a “stay-in-shape” event, per Lynn Crockett, who is in Education Management at Legoland. Other tournaments, not scrimmages, are held throughout the year. Public and private schools, church groups, Girl Scout groups and many others competed in this 62-team scrimmage.

The force behind Santee United Methodist Church’s team, named SUMbots, is coach Carol Olewine.  Olewine brought a team of two, a third member was not present, with Luke Taylor, 9, and Erin Maxwell, 13, to the scrimmage. The SUMbots faced three rounds of robotics competition, plus a judged core value event. The scrimmage ran most of the day.

When asked how he approaches the rounds of competition, nine-year-old Taylor said, “I was (sic) determined.” 

Taylor’s teammate, Erin Maxwell, explained the how they prepare their robot, concluding with the most important step. 

“Make sure it’s lined up and ready to do the mission,” said Maxwell.

Each round of competition was 2-1/2 minutes.  Six tables were set up in the Lego Show Place 4D Theater with cameras projecting the table activity on a screen behind the tables.

Referees and two masters of ceremonies oversaw the competition. Referee Kenneth Elliott said, “I’m amazed that each team has the same missions, but they come up with a different strategy, but all serve the same purpose.”

Mom of six, Beth Anderson, drove down from Victorville.

“This is our third competition,” she said. “My 12-year-old is competing.  They brought two robots. The (robots) can be programmed.  The robots have to be programmed how to move, how many times an arm has to move.  How many rotations. Do math. Do calculations.” 

Videos before the rounds explained the missions. Family, friends, and spectators filled the 425-seat Lego Show Place 4D theater.

“We meet once a week,” said Olewine. “They are learning more every year.” 

This is the church’s second year developing and competing in robotics competitions.

Former pastor at Santee United Methodist Church, Sandra (Sandy) K. Olewine, drove down from Pasadena where she now is assigned, to support the team. 

“This is a great opportunity for young people to get exposed to math, engineering, and science,” she said.

Lego’s robotic themes are Lego Mindstorms, Lego Mindstorms NXT, Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0, and Lego Mindstorms EV3. The robotics line of toys called Mindstorms was initiated in 1999.

 “We have five competitions annually from championships to scrimmages” said Cathy Schulz, first head project judge for the Core Values competitions held in the first hotel’s event room. 

The tournament has exploded in the last decade.

“We started 19 years ago,” said Lynn Crockett. “We did one of the first robotics competitions in the parking lot with 12 teams. Now there are 25,000 teams world-wide – Five hundred in Southern California.” 

At the closing ceremony, hosted in Fun Town, Michelle Muro, education supervisor, oversaw the parade of teams and the handing out of awards.  A trio of Girl Scouts from Orange County, named the COCObots, landed the top prize. The top awards were golden-colored Legos fashioned into gold cups. Teams from Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Diego County, and even Panama City, Panama competed.

Legoland-California, owned by Merlin Entertainments, first opened in Carlsbad in 1999. The Lego toy block, which the Lego toys and theme parks are based on, was created by a Dane, Ole Kirk Christiansen.  Legoland-California will be opening their second hotel, Castle Hotel, in April and their Legoland Water Park opens in March 2018. Legoland-California’s first hotel opened in 2013.  Legoland-Florida opened in 2011. The third American Legoland, to be built in Goshen, New York, is scheduled to open in 2020. 

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