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Middle School Robotics Team Soars in Competition

Innovation and design was the name of the game in RePlay, the First Lego League’s (FLL) 2020-21 challenge. Not only were teams of students in grades 4 to 8 challenged to design, build, program, test, and refine a fully autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS™ technology, they also were required to research and develop a compelling presentation related to the challenge.

Congratulations to middle schoolers Kelsey C. ‘25, Gavin D. ‘26, Duncan S. ‘26, Nick R. ‘28, and Thomas R. ‘28, also known as the Eagle Eyes, on being named a Maryland FIRST Lego League Champions Award Finalist and placing second overall in the League’s State Championships in late April.

“While I am excited the kids achieved this amazing award, I am really most proud and impressed with how they worked together as a team to overcome the different challenges this season presented, to help each other learn new things, and to still really have fun,” says Parent Coach Jason Rapalski. 

Working together in person and virtually from August through April in the afternoon and on weekends, the Eagle Eyes built and programmed a LEGO® robot designed to navigate, capture, transport, activate, and deliver objects. Along the way, they met FLL’s underlying goal—to inspire participants to harness their natural curiosity and use their critical thinking and imagination to explore what future spaces for play will look like. 

Coach Rapalski explains the robot design portion of the competition saying, “The kids present to the judges the engineering activities and design decisions they made. They are evaluated on the strategy they put together to tackle the gameboard missions, their engineering process, how well they kept to it, the quality of their work, and how well they worked as a team.” He continues, “The judges look at how the kids decided to solve a mission with their robot, what hardware attachments they designed and how well they work, and the software code they wrote to control the robot.” 

During the competition, each robot had two and a half minutes to solve as many of the missions on the gameboard as possible, collecting points for achieving different aspects of those missions. Teams were judged on more than robot design and performance—they were also evaluated on their presentation and core values.

Rapalski says, “Teams may be recognized for doing well in a specific area, but the Champions Award is the highest award at a tournament and it is for the team that performs the best across all of the areas.”

In announcing the Eagle Eyes’ success at a virtual awards ceremony, the presenters said, “This team was accomplished over a wide range of challenges, sharing their ideas in a clear, informative, and very engaging way, Their exceptional vision and expansive reach kept them soaring high above the rest.”

Watch their performance run here and see the Eagle Eyes innovation project here.