Local team takes third at Northern California robotics tournament

 Image from article Local team takes third at Northern California robotics tournament
Austin Schuh, left foreground, won the Outstanding Mentor Award with his brother Travis.

The Lego Legends, a Los Altos robotics team, headed a group of eight local teams competing in the Northern California FIRST LEGO League tournament at San Jose City College on Jan. 14. The tournament is an annual robot-building competition that pits teams of children age 9-14 against each other and against the clock.

The objective of the annual challenge is to design, build and program a LEGO Mindstorms robot to move through obstacles on a playing field the size of a pingpong table. The robot races to complete a handful of missions within a 3-minute time limit, picking up and moving key objects.

In addition to the robot competition, the teams present research projects based on the competition's theme. This year's theme was innovation in using ocean resources while preserving them for future generations.

Final standings in the tournament are based on each team's scores from the robot obstacle course, their research project presentation and their ability to explain their robot and programs to judges.

The Lego Legends, sixth-graders at Oak and Loyola elementary schools, placed third in the overall competition out of the 189 teams from Northern California.

Three of the Lego Legends, Ehren Elder, Mark Mekkittikul and Alexander Runke, have participated in the league for three years, and Steven Chakerian joined the team this year. For their research project, the Lego Legends designed and prototyped solutions for generating clean renewable energy from tides and waves.

Five other veteran teams from the Los Altos area also made it through local competition to qualify for the Northern California tournament.

Chickened Out, a group of students from Covington and Bullis, placed eighth in the obstacle course with a high score of 297. The DogBots (Blach Intermediate School seventh-graders) placed 16th with a high score of 264, and the LEGOers (Almond and Santa Rita schools fifth-graders) placed 17th with a high score of 262.

A team of home-schooled fifth- and seventh-graders named 20,000 Bricks earned a high score of 257, and the Lego Stars (Oak Avenue School fifth- and sixth-graders) earned a high score of 207.

Two rookie teams made it to the Northern California tournament: the Supersonic Turtles (Hausner fourth-graders) earned a high score of 246, and the Flying Vikings (Egan, Blach and Cupertino middle schools seventh- and eighth-graders) earned a high score of 152.

The tournament judges bestowed a special award for mentorship on Austin and Travis Schuh. The Schuhs are past competition champions from Los Altos, now too old to compete in the tournament.

The brothers created a training program for new teams and coaches. They made presentations to over 40 coaches at the beginning of the season and worked directly with six different teams, giving them hands-on training.

For more information about the Los Altos FIRST LEGO League and high school programs, visit or call Michael Schuh at 965-8037.

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