Aquabots Team Wins First Place

The Miramar Ranch Elementary School Aquabots won first place in Strategy and Innovation for Best Robot Design in the First Lego League Robotics SoCal regional competition. (courtesy of William Frantz)

Aquabots Team Wins First Place

Most children enjoy playing with Legos, but a group of Miramar Ranch Elementary School fifth graders, known as the Aquabots, took the beloved interlocking bricks to the next level. The Aquabots were awarded first place in Strategy and Innovation for Best Robot Design in the First Lego League Robotics (F.I.R.S.T.) SoCal regional competition at Legoland on Dec. 9.

The Aquabots are comprised of Joshua Frantz, Brady Nelson, Sasha Repkin and Liberty Morgan.

Aquabots coach and electrical engineer William Frantz spent his fourth year leading a team of four students, including his son, in creating a robot made of Legos to compete against 55 other teams from fifth to eighth grade. Prior to the regional competition, the Aquabots competed at a local San Diego high school against 15 teams.

“It was our first year making it to regionals, so we were all really excited to win for best robot design. And our trophy was made of Legos!” Frantz said.

The theme for the 2018 competition was “Into Orbit” – very fitting for the young innovators. Aside from designing, building and programming a robot, student participants had to identify and research a problem relating to space and space travel. Last year’s theme was Hydro Dynamics, which inspired the Aquabots’ name.

Students were instructed to build and program a robot that could act autonomously by fetching, building or another type of physical action. Robots then had to move on a 4-foot by 8-foot mat that had graphics made for the robot to detect. Teams were judged on teamwork, cooperation, design and research.

Frantz noticed the greatest challenges in this competition were keeping students inspired and working hard. Students spent several weeks planning, designing, building, and programming what would become their end result.

“It’s hard for the students to stay motivated when they realize it’s actual work, but in the end, they love it and love Legos,” Frantz said.

While this was their first time at regionals, Frantz and the Aquabots are still riding on the excitement of their first-place win. Frantz is especially awaiting another chance to compete and prove what else the Aquabots can bring to the table.

“I know what to expect now. Compared to the first year we participated, we got the highest score, but receiving an award made me realize we’ve evolved and we can push that even further and definitely advance past regionals,” Frantz said.

Frantz plans to compete again next year, but this time with more students.

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