Middle school LEGO team participates in two competitions

By Jason Harris - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., Jan. 15, 2013
The Colchester Kinematics. Photo courtesy of Frank Newman. - Contributed Photo

The William J. Johnston Middle School LEGO and robotics team took part last month in two robotics competitions. The team, the Colchester Kinematics, was recognized for teamwork at the LEGO and Robotics Qualifying Event held at Rockville High School in Vernon.
They received a golden ticket at the regional event, which allowed them to compete in the state competition a week later. “Our competition in Vernon was spectacular,” said Colin Larkin, a member of the team. “We had some flaws, but we picked up on them.”

The Colchester Kinematics team is comprised of Ryan Smith, Larkin, Viktor Setschinsky, Greg Leitkowski, Dylan Rosenthal, Garret Buchwald, Johno Boski, Chris Wilson and Jared Kunst. Frank Newman, a math specialist and the team’s coach, said there were fewer than 30 teams competing at the regional level.

There are three different areas the judges at the competition look for, Larkin said. They are teamwork, project and the robot created.

“We didn’t excel really big at any of them,” Larkin said. “We were all at the minimum, so we got the golden ticket.”

“What he means is that we didn’t excel at any one of those areas, but we did well in all the areas,” Newman explained. The judges calculated the scores of the roughly 30 teams, and the top five teams received a golden ticket, Newman said.

Newman said that sportsmanship is a big part of the competition. There are “spies” going around checking all the tables and talking with the students, he said. “We got very high marks in sportsmanship,” Newman said. “We had one of our members helping out another team to fix their robot. I know that got back to the judges because the judges came around and asked who that student was.”

The state competition, which included more teams, took place at Central Connecticut State University. Larkin said he was shocked the team got to participate in the state competition.

Setschinsky was happy his team made it to the state finals. Newman, who has been advising the robotics team for the past two years, said he didn't know if the team had ever made it to the state competition before this year. As a coach, he doesn’t tell the students what to do, but just keeps order. “It’s all their ideas. It’s all their work. I just try and keep the peace,” Newman said.

Newman said the students started preparing for these competitions in late September through the middle of December. “It’s an intense four-month period,” he said.

Wilson said the team works like crazy researching a subject, finding a solution and then building and programming a robot. “Our teamwork and research and solutions have been more complete than our robotics,” Wilson said.

Smith said they all work well as a team, know what they are doing and know when to do it.

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