A Robotic Challenge Holmes Students Learn Technology as They Prepare Robots for Competition

Article excerpt

Byline: Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent

In a technology lab tucked in the back of Holmes Middle School in Wheeling, students meet three times a week after school and talk about such things as lunar modules and rotation sensors.

A poster of one of NASA's space shuttles hangs overhead as the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders prepare for their mission to Mars. And the countdown is on.

These would-be scientists are busy programming the robots they built using the Lego Mind Storm system, which includes a computer chip that can download programs to the robot.

During the actual competition their robot must complete a series of nine missions based on ideas created from FIRST and NASA, all in 2 1/2 minutes. FIRST stands for For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

It's all part of the FIRST Lego League Robotics Challenge, which Holmes students have participated in for the last five years.

"I find this program to be a wonderful teaching tool," says Elaine Margaritis, technology teacher and team sponsor. "Listening to students have high-level discussions, arguments and consensus is very rewarding."

This year more than 150 teams from across the state are building and programming their robots, hoping to advance to the state competition, which will be held Dec. 13 at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights.

Suburban teams hail from Arlington Heights, Mount Prospect, Rolling Meadows, Palatine, Des Plaines, Schaumburg, Lake Zurich and Lake Forest. Each team works with volunteer engineers and teachers to accomplish their mission.

To get there, however, they must advance through one of eight regional competitions, and Holmes is one of those sites. On Dec. 3, the seven Holmes teams will vie for state berths along with teams from Des Plaines and Grayslake.

One of the Holmes' teams placed as high as third in last year's state competition, behind the state champion team from Quest Academy in Palatine and the second place team from St. Peter Lutheran School in Arlington Heights.

The so-called MIGGG team, named for the first initials of team members' last names, also captured the prestigious "Director's Award," given to the team that performs well in all major award categories. …