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Bot Squad gearing up for state

Members of Lake Junior High's "Bot Squad" make some adjustments to one of their robots.

Normally robots and seventh graders aren't in the same sentence, but Lake Junior High's Bot Squad, as part of Lego League, are working on changing that stereotype with their award winning robot, Robi.

"Robi our robot is probably amazing," Rowan Calkins, 13, said.

FIRST Lego League is a nation organization which sees students competing in the design and demonstration of functioning robots. Each year the robots must perform a different mission, this year the robot performed snow removal tasks.

Each team must also give a presentation of what they have learned about their assigned environmental theme. This year's overall theme climate connections ? discovering the links between science, people, resources and communities. The Bot Squad's individual theme was methane and the effects methane emissions have on the environment.

The Bot Squad, which is made up of Calkins, Erin Baumer, 13, Max Samuelson, 12, Jacob Banitatibus, 13, Jack Boyd, 12, and Mathew Ickstcat, 12, said being a part of Lego League isn't for everyone, students have to have an interest in science and presenting or else it won't be as rewarding for them.

"I have always been interested in Legos and science is sort of in my blood," Calkins said. "Lego League is for smart people who like to build and figure out problems."

The Bot Squad took second at the Regional Competition on Dec, 13, which gave the Bot Squad a pass to the State Championship on Jan. 25 at the University of Minnesota.

"We need to make our robot more accurate and clean up our speech before state," Calkins said.

In addition to placing second in the overall competition, the Bot Squad also received a teamwork award and a performance award. All six members of the Bot Squad said the competition aspect is their favorite part about being in Lego League, despite how nerve racking it can be on occasion.

"It's a lot different than just practicing," Baumer said. "It was very nerve racking."

Even though they did have some stiff competition, the Bot Squad said it's their teamwork and work ethic that really sets them apart in the judges' eyes.

"We're all friends," Calkins said. "We root for each other, we're exuberant when all the other teams are half asleep."

This is the second year for five of the six Bot Squad members, this is Baumer's first year, and the returning members have said this year has been more rewarding for them since they are all friends outside of the competition and they are more familiar with the competition now.

"This year was a lot more rewarding than last year," Calkins said "It's a lot less painful or stressful because we are a better team."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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