If you’ve read the earlier post on the FIRST LEGO League competition you’ll know just how amazing the event is. But, WOW, the State Finals absolutely took it up a notch.
The process is very similar with the top echelon of teams from competitions across WA converging at Curtin University to battle it out in the state finals. Like the prelims, the teams had to run their robots across the course and present their innovation project to the judges. The sample vid below shows one task the robots had to perform. (Thanks for the vid -Jijin Koid).
For the finals, I was back in the Judges seat but this time as a Core Values judges. What are core values I hear you ask – Gracious professionalism sums it up! How do you work as a team, how can you support each other and really just be a general champion!
The day starts with an initial briefing. Fortunately in the last minute chaos we had 30 minutes for a final coffee run and to check out the awesome engineering projects at Curtin like the beast below. And yes, I would have taken this for a spin had I been allowed.
We also had the opportunity to check out the game boards being set up before the teams started the first of their three robots runs for the day.
Once the bell rang we completed the briefing and then headed to our judging room. This event had an amazing 48 seperate teams competing! Each set of judges reviewed 4 teams, so there were quite a few judging groups.
Before we knew it, the first group was at the door. The presentations for the innovation project were next level in the State Finals. In our group we saw projects including:
- 3 stage power generation (Solar, Compressed air and Hydro) utilising abandoned mines
- Vertical helix Wind turbine for renewable power generation at home
- A shoe with hydro turbine embedded in the sole
- EV’s embedded with flexible solar panels to increase the yield
Each of these presentations was amazing with the teams bringing a variety of 3D printed models, renders and even a real life simulation using a hair dryer as proof of concept. It was epic. I was fortunate to be paired with these two champion Judges – Ilke and James!
Once all the teams had presented, the judges are called back into the adjudication room where the scores are all tallied and the debate begins! Each section of the competition (Robot design, Robot performance, Core Values, Innnovation Project) is assigned points and then the culmination of those points establishes the leaderboard. As you might imagine, sometimes the tallied scores are very close. In one of the categories we had 9 teams on the same points for first place.
Because there four categories, this isn’t really a problem, however we do want to make sure all the judges are broadly judging on the same level. Although this debate can get quite animated, it’s a pretty cool process. Essentially any standout scores are asked to be explained by the judging panel. The other judges can then challenge it, or adapt their position (i.e. level set). The free lunch and soft drink definitely help get through this mission! Importantly, for any award winners, the judges had to write a short 1-2 line spiel for the award announcement.
Once this has finally completed, it’s around 5pm – a pretty long day considering the start was 7.30am. Everyone then headed to the main outdoor breakout space for the presentation of the awards. There’s quite a few awards handed out to reward the great effort and performance of the teams.
This leads me to my favourite part of the day. All of the volunteers line up in a row and as the kids are announced for an award, they run past the volunteers for a high 5.
As Tim was running through the many great achievements, he approached the final three awards. 2nd and 3rd place are invited Asia Pacific open championships in NSW. For the kids, this is a massive deal, but it gets better! 1st place is invited to World Festival, in Houston Texas – Yeehah!
Naturally, as the judges were in the scoring adjudication room we knew the final scores. It turned out that one of the groups that we had judged, won the First place Champions award. From where I was standing, I had a direct view of the team. It had been a long day and you could see it was pretty hot out there.
As Tim started reading the blurb, you could see the realisation start to dawn that they might be taking home the biscuits! (Note: The team are called “The Crashers”)
The Kids: Paying attention, but clearly energy level waning after a long day.
Tim (the presenter): “This team created a splash with their high levels of fun and teamwork.”
Thomas: Looks up and increases interest level to 20%.
Tim (the presenter): Their innovation project model spun it’s way to success, and animated itself for the judges.
Thomas & Nava: Looks at the others and nudges them with a “This could be us!!!”. Excitement level ramped to 60%.
Tim (the presenter): “This team explained their robots design to the ultimate level…”
The Team: Excitement ramped to 80%, and all four team members paying complete attention.
Tim (the presenter): “..and documented their robots as well as a crash site.”
The Team: Excitement overload – Amazement level 3000! Utter disbelief that they’ve taken out the grand prize with their efforts and will be heading to the U.S of A!
The team headed up to the stage to receive their award and then Tim wrapped up the day.
Overall, it was an fantastic day and I highly recommend volunteering for next years events. Not only does it blend my favourite hobby (LEGO), with another interest (coding and robotics), you get to see what the leaders of tomorrow are coming up with. It’s a great experience!
For more info you can check out:
FIRST LEGO League Challenge.