NSA Lego team advances

Published 10:10 pm Tuesday, November 27, 2012

(Photo courtesy of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy) Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s First Lego League team, called the Muffin Knights and with 10 members, has progressed to the state tournament.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s First Lego League team operates democratically, member Jacob Conrod maintains.

There is no issuing of decrees about things like what size wheels Lego robots require for successfully crossing wobbly Lego bridges.

“It’s definitely a democracy; we make decisions as a group,” said Jacob, a fifth-grader.

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It’s evidently a recipe for success. The Muffin Knights — as the team is called — put in a strong-enough performance to progress to the next round of the official competition.

At a regional tournament at Lake Taylor Middle School recently, the NSA team won a berth in the state competition at James Madison University on Dec. 8 and 9.

The Muffin Knights’ 10 members are drawn from the Lower School’s Lego classes, team coach Michele Bossisk said.

“This is our fourth year doing that,” she said. “It’s part of our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative.”

NSA says it is preparing students for careers that haven’t even been dreamed up yet. “They come to the science lab, and they are engineers during that time,” Bossick said. “They build and program Legos and work with a partner. We call them engineering-design challenges.”

At the regionals in 2011, the first year of competitive Lego robotics at the school, the Muffin Knights placed fifth overall and won a first-place award for core values.

This year, to progress to the state tournament in Harrisonburg, the fourth- and fifth-graders won second place in the robot performance game and second place overall. Fourteen teams competed.

“Going into the competition, we didn’t know how were going to stack up, but they had a solid day,” Bossick said.

Each year’s competition has a different theme. This year it was senior solutions. After interviewing their senior partner, the Muffins Knights came up with the “super grip,” a method to help arthritis sufferers do things like open bottles and jars.

“They presented the idea to judges through a skit,” Bossick said. “They wrote and memorized lines and did a five-minute play.

The NSA students put in a lot of preparation for the robot game, in which teams must design and program robots made from Mindstorm Legos to perform a series of obstacles.

“They would come in at lunchtime, and we would meet after school three days a week,” Bossick said.

Jacob said he enjoyed the skit and the robot game but is a little worried about encountering stiff competition next month. “They’re probably going to be better than us and know more about it than we do,” he said.

Anna Paisley, a fellow Muffin Knight, said she enjoys the robot game the best. “You just have to try new things and think about it,” she said. “It involves a lot of math.”