Johnston First Lego League Team Excels at Regionals

A team of Johnston students had the “purr-fect” combination of wits, hard work and team values to take home the top prize at a First Lego League competition in December.

“Just the Cats,” a team composed of students from Beaver Creek Elementary and Summit Middle School, took home the Champion’s Award at the regional First Lego League competition at Marshalltown Community College on December 3. The team had the highest overall scores out of the 36 teams competing that day, and was invited to the state competition at Iowa State University on January 15.

“We’re primarily a rookie team with the majority of our members being new to FLL,” said Andrew McCormick, team coach and JMS art teacher. “The amazing thing

Students in Johnston's FIrst Lego League team celebrate their win at the regional competition.

Just the Cats receive their Champion’s Award. (L-R) Owen McCormick, Leah Barton, Kathir Kalyanaraman, Andrew McCormick, Reagan Zierke, Audrey Allen, Nora McCormick, Abigail Wharton, Calahan Rourke and Luna Ceradsky.

is how quickly we came together and gelled into a cohesive team. We did pretty well in all four judged components of the regional competition, but what I think the judges really saw was how much the team enjoyed our time together and how we embodied the eight core values of FIRST Robotics.”

First Lego League (FLL) is an international program designed to get children excited about science, technology and engineering. Each year, a new challenge is announced that engages the teams in hands-on robotics design and scientific research. During the tournaments, teams have three tries at the robot table to get the best score possible. When not competing with their robots, teams give their research presentations, are interviewed about the technical design of their robots, and are given an opportunity to demonstrate how they work together.

“Just the Cats” is made up of eight fourth through seventh graders, including Audrey Allen, Luna Ceradsky, Kathir Kalyanaraman, Nora McCormick, Owen McCormick, Calahan Rourke, Abigail Wharton and Reagan Zierke. They are coached by McCormick and his wife, Leah Barton.

Starting in August, the team met three hours each week to prepare for the regional competition. All members played a role in building the team’s robots and writing code for the robots’ operations. In addition to the robot design and programming, the team researched how nitrates filter into waterways and contribute to algae blooms and killing fish.  Through their research and subsequent model and prototype, the team created an efficient and cost-effective solution in attempts to better filter water run-off at construction sites. In addition to regular practices, the team also periodically met with their sponsors – John Deere, Happy Medium and Cerebral – to do research for their team project and present their findings.

The team will compete in the state FLL competition in January. Learn more about First Lego Leaque here.

This story was submmitted by Meghan Zierke.