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Lego robotics earn trophies for SD43 students

Oscar Shi, Bruce Yan, Johnny Wei and Tianhao Xu with the trophies they won at the recent B.C. Regional Championships of the First Lego League. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Oscar Shi, Bruce Yan, Johnny Wei and Tianhao Xu with the trophies they won at the recent B.C. Regional Championships of the First Lego League.
— image credit: DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS

Lego is not just for toddlers anymore. The colorful building blocks have been used to create towns, villages, even entire cities and a group of Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Burnaby students are winning awards with a robot they made of Lego.

Johnny Wei, Bruce Yan, Tianhao Xu and Oscar Shi lugged home a lot of hardware — much of it made out of Lego — during the recent B.C. Regional Championships of the First Lego League.  The boys who call themselves the Ninja Bunnies won not only second place overall but first place in matches pitting robot against robot in a timed competition. As well, the students picked up first place for strategy and innovation — not bad for a group that just formed in the fall.

"I am really proud of the boys," said coach Phillip Yan. He said the students worked for months before taking home the top prizes in January, developing strategies, a mission, building their robot and programming it to do multiple tasks.

Bruce Yan and Tianhao Xu, are Grade 6 students from Summit middle, Johnny Wei is in Grade 8 at Citadel middle and Oscar Shi is in Grade 9 at Burnaby North secondary.

Recently, the boys demonstrated their robot's skills on a specially-made table. They have programed the 'bot to do 15 tasks, such as moving some Lego flowers from one place to another and knocking down some bowling pins, using attachments they also made.

"Fail" said Shi, when the robot didn't do its appointed task on the first try. It was then repositioned and successfully completed the job.

The boys think the reason their robot won the performance competition — completing all the tasks in under 2.5 minutes — is because it was programmed to distinguishing between light and dark, and was able to successfully follow a black line to complete the obstacle course.

"The robot interpreted the data to correctly follow the line," Shi explained.

One of the biggest challenges the 'bot had to undertake was to climb on top of a raised platform without falling off. Bruce Yan said the Ninja Bunnies racked up the most points in the competition, but acknowledged he was nervous during the event held over two days at BCIT. "I was nervous and eager for first place," he said.

In addition to building the robot and programming it using LEGO Mindstorms, the students developed a mission statement, created a logo and stickers, designed a high-tech cane for use by seniors and made posters about their core values.

Their success has prompted the students in Grade 6 to 9 to consider entering the competition next year, and Yan said he expects big things from the Ninja Bunnies.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

 

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