Grand Lake students advance to FIRST robotics state competition |

Grand Lake students advance to FIRST robotics state competition

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Grand County, CO Colorado

Students from Grand Lake Elementary School are attending the State Championship of the FIRST LEGO League robotics competition this weekend at the University of Colorado Denver, Auraria Campus.

For six months, students have been working outside of school hours to perfect a robot that completes tasks on a thematic playing surface.

Students entered their robot, made up of materials and components manufactured by the LEGO company, in a regional competition in Boulder on Nov. 14.

There, the Grand Lake team, called “The Grand Lake Geek Squad,” placed first in the robotics competition comprised of about 18 teams. The team garnered 270 points out of a possible 400.

Parents Chris Tarr and Lauren Radin have been coaching the team, but all creativity, scientific applications and robot construction and programming are “kid-driven,” according to Radin, whose son is a team member.

The robot the team ultimately created had a “design edge” of being “small and simple,” Radin said.

“It got more places quicker than anybody else’s,” she said.

As part of the contest, team members programmed their robot to perform challenges in the competition’s set obstacle course. The robot was timed against robots entered by other schools, including many Denver magnet or charter schools with a technological focus.

Coming out on top in the robot challenge “is a real testament to their teamwork,” Radin said of the Grand Lake team. “They were thrilled with their performance at the event.”

The theme of the contest this year is “transportation,” and as part of research, the Grand Lake students traveled to Denver in October to meet with Colorado Department of Transportation officials, ride the light rail and learn about alternative forms of transportation in Colorado.

At the FIRST regional competition, the Grand Lake Geek Squad also won a Second Place Director’s Award, which is awarded to teams based on judge’s scores of the students’ overall oral presentation, robot score, teamwork and technical interview.

It’s not the first time Grand Lake students have fared well in the competition. Grand Lake’s team last year nearly advanced to the national FIRST robotics competition.

This year’s team has six returning members and two new members.

Founded by inventor, entrepreneur and science advocate Dean Kamen in 1989, the FIRST program exists to “transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology heroes,” according to the FIRST Web site.

Based in Manchester, NH, the 501(c)3 not-for-profit designs “accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to engage in technology.”

If Grand Lake students and their robot continue to do well, they may have the chance to advance to a national, even a world competition.

“It teaches them their world is a little bigger than just Grand Lake,” said parent-coach Chris Tarr.

– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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