Successful joust for Muffin Knights

Published 10:09 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s Lego robotics team, the Muffin Knights, competes at a state tournament at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, held on Dec. 8 and 9. After a strong performance, the team came away with a Judges Award.

Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s First Lego League team, dubbed the Muffin Knights, has returned home from the state competition with a coveted Judges’ Award.

The 10-member team, drawn from the Lower School’s Lego classes, was among four to win the award during the 2012 Virginia/District of Columbia First Lego League Championship Tournament.

Held at James Madison University, the event saw spirited competition between the top performers of 600 teams that competed in Virginia and the district in 2012.

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The Muffin Knights, whose members are passionate about engineering and robotics, was the only Suffolk-based team to win a berth. They progressed to the state round after a strong showing in a regional tournament at Lake Taylor Middle School.

The competition has a different theme each year. This year’s them was “senior solutions.”

“The competition went really well for our team,” Muffin Knights coach Michele Bossisk said.

“I think they had a strong overall effort. We were very proud of their performance, because they topped their best score in the regional tournament by 20 points.”

The NSA students were well prepared for the Lego robotics competition, which uses Mindstorm Legos to create robots that are programmed to perform tasks.

Teams also present an idea based on the theme. After interviewing a senior partner, the Muffins Knights’ devised the “super grip,” a method to help arthritis sufferers do things like open bottles and jars.

“The Judges’ Award allows judges to recognize teams that stand out,” Bossisk said, adding that the award was formally presented during a ceremony.

The Muffin Knights first competed in 2011, earning a fifth place overall at the regional competition and 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.

“I felt great about their performance, and I feel really good about the direction that we’re going in with the (Lego) robotics at NSA,” Bossick said.

With 98 teams, the Virginia/D.C. tournament was actually bigger than the national event, Bossick said. “It was one of the biggest in the country,” she added.

The team is taking a breather at the moment before re-starting its vigorous training regime in the spring.

The theme for 2013 is “nature’s fury,” and Bossick wasn’t sure yet how the team will tackle it.

“That’s what we’ll start working on in the spring and summer months,” she said.