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Pinkston Robotics, the First LEGO League team from Pinkston Middle School in Mountain Home, has qualified for the Western Edge Open in Long Beach, California, May 31 through June 2.
The team competed in the regional qualifier at Harding Academy on December 2, where they earned the Innovation Project Award, advancing them to the Arkansas State First LEGO League Championships this past Saturday, January 20. The Innovation Project Award celebrates the team that utilizes diverse resources for their Innovation Project to help them gain a comprehensive understanding of their problem; has a creative, well-researched solution; and effectively communicates their findings to judges and the community.
During the research phase of the project, the team discovered that students who lack adequate reading skills in the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than students who read at grade level, and 85% of all juvenile offenders have reading problems. “Our motto is ‘See a Need, Fill a Need,’ and this is a need that we can fill,” team member Bray-Lynn Hooper, a seventh grader at Pinkston Middle School, said. “Our solution is to use the website StoryJumper to create books digitally.”
Seventh grade student Allison Free explained how the digital books were used to impact others. “We go to the Kindergarten to read them our books; they love having middle school students read to them. We also plan to teach them how to make their own books by pairing them with middle school students. The Kindergartners are so excited to create their own books as well as read books that their peers have created,” she said.
At the Arkansas State FIRST LEGO League Championships, Pinkston Robotics took the Engineering Excellence Award and earned the right to represent Arkansas at the Western Edge Open in Long Beach, California. The Engineering Excellence Award recognizes the team with an efficiently designed robot, an innovative project solution that effectively addresses the season challenge, and Core Values evident in all they do.
At the Western Edge FIRST LEGO League Open, Pinkston Robotics will get the opportunity to experience three full days of competition in robot design, robot games, innovation project development, and core values, against 90 teams from around the world. This year’s FIRST LEGO League challenge theme is “MASTERPIECE.” Learning about the role science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) play in the arts, teams will imagine and innovate new ways to create and communicate art across the globe. Their task was to use technology and the arts to help engage others or increase participation in what they love to do. Collectively, the team exhibits a love for reading, and they have found an innovative way to share their love of reading with younger kids in their community.
Pinkston Robotics is made up of six students from Pinkston Middle School: seventh graders Allison Free, Bray-Lynn Hopper and Brooks Barber, along with sixth graders Abigail Hale, Ava Allen, and Crews Wooldridge. The team is coached by Chrissy Davis, Pinkston Middle School’s sixth and seventh grade robotics teacher and mentor to Pinkston Robotics Since 2018, with the assistance of high school mentors Olivia Clements and Noah Dickerson, former Pinkston Robotics team members and current members of Mountain Home High School robotics team.
Since its inception in 2018, Pinkston Robotics has won awards at the State competition almost every year and has been invited to four after-season events: the Asia Pacific Open in Australia twice, the Western Edge Virtual Tournament, and now the Western Edge Open. “My goal for LEGO in Mountain Home is to increase local teams,” Davis said. “We have so many children who want to participate and would greatly benefit from the program, but I can only have so many children on one team. I have talked to several area schools trying to help them get a team started in their school. I was so excited to see Norfork Middle School at the regional competition this year,” she said. Throughout the past five years Coach Davis has trained mentors to take on teams of their own. Last year one high school mentor started a team, Lil’ Bomb Squad, under her guidance. Lil’ Bomb Squad went on to win the Robot Design Award and the Rising All-Star Award at the state competition, earning them a place in the Asia Pacific Open Invitational in Sydney, Australia.
In addition to First Lego League, Pinkston Robotics has recently partnered with the Mountain Home High School Navy Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (NJROTC) to expand their STEM horizons to include drone and Seaperch (underwater drone) competition teams. Cadets from the high school will mentor and train Pinkston students to compete in regional, national, and international challenges in aviation and marine engineering.
Pinkston Robotics will need to raise in excess of $20,000 in order to make the trip to Long Beach, Calif. at the end of May. Fundraising efforts will kick off in the coming weeks. If you or your organization would like to contribute to help these students represent the state of Arkansas and the Mountain Home Bombers, please reach out to Coach Davis at [email protected]. For updates on the team, follow them on Facebook: @FLLteam39042.