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Robotics Team Excels on International Stage

May 24, 2018 09:15AM ● By Jeanne Fratello

The RadioActive Penguins - from left to right: Ben Vick, Nick Signorelli, Devan Parekh, and Thomas Temperley

A Manhattan Beach robotics team impressed judges on an international stage last weekend, as they presented their work at the FIRST Lego League California International Open at Legoland.

The team of Ben Vick, Thomas Temperley, Devon Parekh, and Nick Signorelli - known as the RadioActive Penguins - earned high marks across the board. Judges praised them for their robot design; for their explanation of why they built the robot they way they did to achieve as many missions as possible within the 2:30 time limit; and for displaying teamwork, independent problem solving strategies, and patience.

The team's presentation included an engineering solution to the storm water run-off problem in which large amounts of trash and waste end up in storm drains.

The RadioActive Penguins, all of whom are 7th graders at Manhattan Beach MIddle School, are fresh off a winning season. After starting work together in August (for up to 12 hours per week), they won a regional qualifying event in Redondo Beach in November. They then moved on to the 2017 FIRST Lego League Regional Championships in La Canada in December, where they earned first place among 49 teams and took home the Champions Award. That title also qualified them to participate in this past weekend's competition. 

Impressively, the students were up against many teams that were part of school groups with a dedicated robotics teacher. The Manhattan Beach team represented a purely volunteer effort, led by coach/parent Jeri Vick, as well as mentors Michael Leahy and Angel Madrid - a college student and a senior at El Segundo High School. All of the team's work and training was done after school and on the weekends.

A second team of Manhattan Beach girls also qualified and competed in the regional championships in December. Team "Animal Tech" is made up of Pacific Elementary School 5th graders Lauren Vick, Ella Temperley,  Sabrina Guidry, and Julia Guidry; and MBMS 6th grader Shivana Parekh. The team shares the same coach and mentors.

FIRST Lego League introduces elementary and middle school students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. Students design, build and program robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS® or EV3® technology, apply real-world math and science concepts, learn critical thinking, team-building and presentation skills, and participate in tournaments and celebrations.

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