FLORIDA, Mass. — Twenty Abbott Memorial School students participated in the Berkshire Robotics Challenge marking the school's return to the competition.
Students from Grades 3 through 7participated in the competition on Saturday, March 18, at Taconic High School.
"For the students, it is pure application-based learning. The anticipation of participating in a competition increases the stakes for the students — there's something more meaningful than an abstract grade on the line," said voach Tim Herrmann. "For some students, the challenge is learning that failure is the best teacher; programming errors and flaws in building design can be frustrating, but the students learn to persevere and keep trying."
Herrmann, who has a passion for applied science and technology, spearheaded the school's re-entry and said the last time Abbott attended the Berkshire Robotics Challenge was more than six years ago.
He said students have met twice a week since December to train and learn about the various "missions" of the challenge, and then design and build a robot to accomplish a few missions.
"After building the robot, students then begin learning to program the robot to move and interact with the different elements on the competition board," he said.
Herrmann said students base their designs on a few simple models that can be found on the Lego Education website.
"Usually, the building part is easy. The programming is the hardest challenge that the students face because the performance of the robot requires precise movement and consistent positioning at the start," he said. "One of the biggest lessons early on is the propagation of error; small degrees of error add up rather quickly."
Herrmann said, as a coach, part of his job is to know when to step away and let students work through problems on their own.
"One of the core tenets of the program is that the students are encouraged to do the heavy lifting of thinking through problems, coming up with solutions, and testing those solutions," he said. "That's a big task for students who think that the answers to every question can be found through a Google search."
The actual Berkshire Robotics Challenge is a stand-alone event that follows the structure of the First Lego League Challenge. Teams register for the competition in early autumn.
At the competition, teams present their robots for inspection, where judges look at the design and build of the robot, as well as the programming. Each team participates in four rounds of running missions on the challenge board trying to score as many points as possible.
This year, the top eight teams then competed in elimination rounds until there was one team that scored the most points.
Herrmann said in addition to the "game," as the mission challenge is known, teams are judged on team spirit, sportsmanship, and completion of an optional project based on the theme of the competition. This year's theme was SuperPowered.
Herrmann said Abbott Memorial School fielded two teams at the competition this year: A-B0T Power, composed of 3rd and 4th-graders, and A-B0T United, composed of students in Grades 5 through 7.
"A-B0T Power performed admirably under some difficult circumstances with last-minute changes to programming and came away from the competition with a treasure trove of experience to build on for next year," he said. "A-B0T United came in 9th place, one spot out of making it to the final 8."
Herrmann said he is looking forward to future competitions.
"Coaching the robotics club has been one of the highlights of my career in education," he said. "Next year I'm hoping to break down our 20-student group from two teams to four, to give more students a chance to be more involved in the competition."
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BRO MX Ordered to Comply With Conservation Restrictions
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conservation Commission gave BRO MX until July 28 to place signage marking conservation-restricted area they improperly mowed as well as hire a botanist to review the area.
The commission on Thursday went over some conservation restrictions included in the deed of motocross track owners Jason and Jessica Langenback that they unknowingly violated.
"The reason why you are on the agenda is that there have been suggested anomalies of the management and the use of the conversation restriction … wetlands encroachment and things along those lines," Chairman Andrew J. Kawczak said. "So I am hoping … this gets the conversation started."
Specifically, the restrictions control mowing in a meadowed area as there are endangered insects and plants.