Garnet Squadron FLL Qualifies for SC State Championship

Members of Garnet Squadron Alfa with their Robot Performance Award and the golden ticket to the South Carolina FLL State Championship

Yesterday, members of the Garnet Squadron’s FIRST LEGO League team, Garnet Squadron Alfa, competed at the Columbia Qualifier for their chance at the state tournament.  All four members of the team, newbies to FIRST and FLL, put in long hours to ensure they were ready for their one opportunity this year.

Before their first match, the team members presented their research project around this year’s Nature’s Fury theme.  Their research into evacuating people from Charleston in advance of a hurricane went well, with feedback provided by the judges to encourage them to continue their work.

Their robot, Gaston (named after an old hurricane and the brute-strength-gifted villain from Beauty and the Beast) took to its first of three matches with a few lingering quirks and a pair of operators jittery from their first-ever FLL match.  Despite the miscues and falling over while completing the Obstacles mission, the 96-point run was good enough to keep them in the top 8 after round 1.  Top score was from FLL 10315, Wateree Robotics, with 168.

After their first round, the team participated in judging sessions for Robot Design, where key features of Gaston were demonstrated outside of the match clock, and Core Values, where judges asked questions about team dynamics and Gracious Professionalism along with a pop teamwork exercise.

Over the lunch break, the team fine-tuned Gaston at the practice table to ensure they knew all their marks to accomplish the missions they chose to pursue.  Fueled up and ready to run the table again, the kids queued up for Round 2.  It started off a little jittery, knocking one of the loops with a pet on it over on the way back to base, but the team succeeded in getting the supplies out of the supply truck and proceeded for the obstacles mission. After getting caught on the field border, they made another attempt and made it across three of the four obstacles to achieve what is so far the state record this year, 232 points!

Garnet Squadron Alfa posted the two highest scores at the Columbia Qualifier, posting a 232 and 227 in their final two runs.

Garnet Squadron Alfa posted the two highest scores at the Columbia Qualifier, posting a 232 and 227 in their final two runs.

With both team members and competitors energized by the high score, the team made a few minor repairs and prepared for their third and final round.  As FLL counts only the highest score towards the Robot Performance category, the team knew that it wasn’t official until the last match of the day.  The second pet fell again, and the supply truck didn’t quite make it to base but some of its cargo did.  With time running low, they went for the obstacles again and cleared all four, but not before flipping the robot over on the far end of the field barrier!  Despite the miscues and the flip knocking a couple of scoring pieces free, the team still put a fantastic 227-point run on the board to end the day.

After the last match was run, we knew we were leaving with hardware but weren’t assured of a place at the South Carolina State Championship without the input from our judged sessions.  While FLL 1085, Lego Cross Lego Shield, fielded the best across-the-board performance and netted the Champion’s Award, our first-place run in Robot Performance helped qualify Garnet Squadron Alfa for the 80-team state tournament!

The South Carolina FLL State Championship tournament is February 15, 2014 at River Bluff High School.  Garnet Squadron Alfa will be hard at work to improve Gaston and their project to contend for a spot at the FLL World Festival in St. Louis.

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