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Local elementary school students to compete against junior high kids in robotics competition

Posted: December 18, 2009 10:07 p.m.
Updated: December 19, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Jihee Han, left, and Luke Kim assemble the final touches on the Robo Huskies' robot during their after-school meeting on Wednesday.

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A group of fourth- through sixth-graders is on a mission - one that requires precision, research and teamwork.

Luckily, they have robots on their side.

Today, 20 technologically savvy students in the Pico Canyon Elementary School's robotics program will head to the Los Angeles Region FIRST LEGO League Championship.

"It's all about teamwork," Allison said. "It doesn't matter if you win or lose; it's just fun to compete."

During their last practice Wednesday, the group of elementary students huddled around its LEGO mission field and robot, named "Max." The students anxiously watched it complete turns and hurdles in a matter of seconds.

Sixth-grader Joel sat at a computer several feet away programming the robot's sensors, sounds and motion.

"We put a plan out," he said. "It usually doesn't work the first or second or third time but we keep on modifying it until we get it right."

The robotics competition is the culmination of a semester filled with research, computer programming, robot building and collaboration for the two Rancho Pico teams, Cyber Huskies and Robo Huskies.

In addition to the robot mission, competing students had to discover ways to improve their community's transportation means.

The teams will present their robot and transportation solutions at the competition, as well as be tested for their teamwork and designs by a panel of engineers.

At the Glendale qualifier, the teams collectively took home five trophies and one team placed second overall, said Bryan Eifert, who leads the students with assistant Martha Stafford.

Because students as old as 14 can compete, the Pico Canyon teams are usually competing against junior high students, said Eifert, who has coached the program since he created it six years ago.

Pico Canyon hosts the only robotics program in the Newhall School District, Eifert said. The program is completely funded through parents and donations, like one from Advanced Solar Electric, which gave $500 to the students this year.

But for now Eifert and his students are focusing on Saturday's competition and what they call, "gracious professionalism."

"We treat everyone with respect," Eifert said. "We're more concerned with what we can learn and how we can grow as people more than what we win."

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