• Murphy Middle School students Rosley Hall, Aidan Hall, Landyn Adams, Paige Black, Ciera Ward and Lyden Raxter (from left) react to a perfect run by their robot.
    Murphy Middle School students Rosley Hall, Aidan Hall, Landyn Adams, Paige Black, Ciera Ward and Lyden Raxter (from left) react to a perfect run by their robot.

SCOUTING AROUND: Murphy Middle advances in robotics competition

    Robotics teams from four Cherokee County schools traveled to Blairsville, Ga., for the FIRST Lego League regional qualifying tournament, and Murphy Middle School’s team came home with a ticket to the champion event to be held in Chattanooga, Tenn., in February.
    Only eight of the 28 teams in the tournament qualified for the next round.
    “I’m so excited about what they achieved today,” said David Decker, one of Murphy’s coaches. Students on the team were Landyn Adams, Paige Black, Aidan Hall, Rosley Hall, Brody Helton, Lyden Raxter, Andrew Thompson, Ciera Ward and J.T. Zakroski.
    Decker said the team, Circuit Overload, worked hard all season on building and programming their robot, as well as working on presentations for the competition. He thinks the pep talk he and fellow coach Brian Gatti gave them before their second robot run on a game board course helped a lot. The team’s first robot run produced a low score of 12 points, but they came back in the second round accomplishing all challenges and earning a perfect score of 110.
    “I was just hoping it would be a little bit better than our first,” said Ward, who ran the programs and adjusted the team’s robot, “Kepler,” for the game board challenges.
    Each team’s best score out of three robot performance runs is combined with presentation scores in core values, robot design and solution project for the theme “Into Orbit” to determine which teams qualify for the championship event. Gatti said the students all worked on different aspects in preparation for the competition. It was the students’ second year together as a team, with only three new members.
    “As a unit, they were really solid,” Gatti said.
    “They were able to key into their individual talents,” Decker added.
    Martins Creek School’s fifth-grade team also worked to the students’ talents and interests, with programmer Samuel Lewis and Lego enthusiasts Josh Felix and John Durham. Martins Creek’s middle school team included Carson Phillips, Taylor Burt, Trey Morin and Madison Munz. The teams were coached by Chad Brooks and Amy Morin.
    Phillips enjoyed being able to freely talk about his team’s robot in the robot design presentation, but his favorite part of the competition was the robot run course.
    “That’s the part you get to see all your hard work come together,” he said.
    Hiwassee Dam Elementary/Middle School also brought two teams of students. Victoria Higdon, Caleb Watkins, Trey Swain, Aaron Harger, Cale Harger and Madison Garner were on the Robo Techno Talons, with Tyler Robertson, Juan Vega, Victoria Stiles, Riley Cabe, Kate Garner and Colton Miles on the Cyber Eagles. Coaches were Nancy Vento and Alyssa Montegue.
    Andrews Middle School had 67 kids initially sign up for the school’s robotics team at the beginning of the year, but nine students were able to make the team for the tournament. Ernestina Gonzalez, Calab Raymond, Charles Dickerson, Caleb Stillwell, Greta Whisonant, Daisy Sargent, Rileigh Lequire, Electa Tallant and Alexis Beasley made up the team, while Amber Ledford and John Worden were the coaches.
    Both Andrews and Hiwassee Dam students showed some of the core values of the tournament – gracious professionalism and cooperation – in their actions. Hiwassee Dam brought their practice game board, and when they learned there weren’t enough practice boards provided in the pit for every team, they shared their board with other teams.
    Later, as teams waited for the results of the competition, Andrews Middle students led an impromptu game of “Duck, Duck, Goose,” eagerly going to each team in the gym and inviting them to join.
    For the last two years, Cherokee County schools have participated in the North Carolina tournaments, with the first round in Cherokee and state championship in Greensboro. This year, the district decided to send the county’s teams to the Chattanooga/North Georgia tournaments.
    “It’s a little different, but I like it,” said Caleb Stillwell, a student on Andrews Middle’s team who competed last year, too. Raxter, who also competed last year, said the size of gym at Union County Elementary School was not as intimidating as the gym at Cherokee High School.
    Alecia Frizzell, who organized the Blairsville tournament, thought it was amazing to see more North Carolina teams in the Chattanooga/North Georgia tournament. Hayesville Middle School participated last year.
    “It’s nice because it cuts down on travel time for everyone,” she said.
    Andrews Middle Principal Lance Bristol said he didn’t know what to expect as a first-time spectator.
    “It’s unbelievable to see the excitement in the kids’ faces and the nervous energy,” Bristol said. “I’m proud of them.”
    Out of the Cherokee County teams, Andrews scored the second-most points in the robot run, with a high score of 79. Tallant said if it wasn’t for Sargent telling her there was enough time to complete one more challenge when there was only 40 seconds left, they wouldn’t have gotten 13 of those points.
    “I think my team did pretty good,” Tallant said.
    “We tried as hard as we could, and I think that’s really important,” Sargent said.
    “And we had fun,” Tallant said.
    Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, scoutingaround@cherokeescout.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.