The RoboFalcons, a group of young tech enthusiasts from Jericho Middle School, are hard at work again in preparation for the First Lego League (FLL) Championships. The six-man crew has been working tirelessly outside of school hours to design and create robots that will hopefully earn them top honors in the upcoming competition.
“It’s not just about robotics. It’s a great program for kids to learn how to construct projects while teaching them to work as a team together,” said Rohit Bhatia, head coach of the RoboFalcons and father of one of the team’s members.
The team, now in its third year, was assembled by Bhatia, a Jericho resident with a desire to expose bright young minds to the science behind robotics and the associated technology. The group is not an officially recognized club in the middle school, yet the children within it are eager to devote their time to meeting and working together to achieve a common goal.
“They’re all so motivated and so excited to get to work,” said Bhatia of his students. “They understand that it’s not mandatory and truly appreciate the time they put in. What we’re doing is learning and having fun and making friends throughout the process.”
These driven young students have their sights set on winning the FLL Championships, an annual international program targeted at middle school students, in which registered teams must create robots within the parameters of the mission set forth by the league. The program is intended to challenge participants to discover solutions to real-world problems through the use of math, science and technology.
Last year, the RoboFalcons finished as champions at the Long Island level of the competition, but were defeated shortly after in the next qualifying round. The current team, which has just two members from last year, is confident that they have the skills and level of creativity to earn them a spot in championships at the national level.
The theme of this year’s challenge is “Animal Allies,” a open-ended concept intended to prompt participants to think outside the box and create projects that will serve to benefit interactions involving animals.
“The team has to create strategies and use their imaginations to think of different scenarios like how humans can help interactions with animals or how animals could interact in a way to benefit other animals,” added Bhatia.
The enthusiastic RoboFalcons have been preparing for the challenge through research and by getting actively involved with local animal-related institutions. They have been meeting with veterinary specialists and pet psychologists, and recently partnered with nearby animal shelters to raise money.
Under Bhatia’s guidance, the team has been using these experiences to begin strategizing and brainstorming potential project ideas. Though the dream of winning the championships is their main motivation, it is the love of the overall journey that keeps each member on track.
“I’m sure to remind them that winning isn’t everything,” said Bhatia. “It’s about how much you’ve learned throughout the process and assessing your strengths and weaknesses, not just individually, but as a team.”
The RoboFalcons will begin their journey with the first qualifier on Saturday, Jan. 28, at Mineola High School. If they win, they advance to the championship round on Sunday, March 5, at Longwood High School.
For more information about the league and upcoming competitions, visit www.firstlegoleague.org.