Livingston Robotics Club Teams Compete in State Championship

(LRC teams, Adroit Robotics, Spongebot, and RoboRocks with NJ FLL officials Ernie DiCicco and Monique Dituri)

On December 9, four LRC teams were among the 60 contestants in the Northern New Jersey FLL (FIRST LEGO League) Championship at Mt. Olive High School. The 4 teams carried the LRC tradition of award-winning performances in judging areas and robot games while making friends and having lots of fun!

Even though the FLL competition season has concluded for LRC teams, they will continue to present their projects and robot designs to local communities; and, most importantly, have fun through LRC gatherings and outreach activities.

The new season for the FLL Jr. is about to start. LRC will hold an Open House in January 2018 for Livingston Public Schools children ages 6-9 who have interest in LEGO robotics and science projects to form FLL Jr. teams. You can visit and like LRC Facebook page at to receive an announcement on the Open House date.

Team Adroit Robotics won the No. 1 Innovative Solution Award for their project to filter and reuse household waste water through a process called “AquiPlenish”. The team enjoyed their third year together. Team member Aalok Dhurandhar mentioned that the project made him a better person as he became aware how scare the drinking water is in the world and realized the importance of saving water. Srishti Dhurandhar mentioned that it was a great learning experience as the team managed to address disagreements amongst themselves in a very healthy way which reflected in the team getting the Core Values award in the qualifier.

Neil Ahlawat mentioned that through the FLL season, he learnt a lot about the construction of a robot, programming, and the water crisis around the globe. He also learned about aquifers, because of their project. Natasha Ahlawat mentioned that it is not what they learn in FLL that she loves the most, it is the experiences they share during the season which is on the top of her list.

Coaches Nikhil Dhurandhar & Raminder Ahlawat mentioned that the kids were a bit disappointed that even after getting perfect scores for Core Values and for the Project, they did not qualify for the World Festival. During the State Championship, the kids realized that the strategy for programming was not strong enough to qualify for the next round. The coaches had realized early-on  that the strategy the kids planned was not efficient but as coaches/parents we had to support what kids had planned and let them make mistakes. We think the kids learnt an important lesson from this  failure and we are sure they will be better prepared technically for the next season. Overall the team enjoyed this experience and more importantly the team developed a special bond between themselves. To sum it up the kids mentioned that they learned a lot of life skills that they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Team Promethio, a five-member rookie robotics team from Livingston NJ with ages ranging from 11-13 years old, competed this past weekend with over 60 teams at the FIRST FLL NJ State Championships.  After 3 difficult rounds of competition with some of the best teams throughout Northern NJ, Team Promethio’s robot performed flawlessly completing over 13 missions to amass a total score of 245 points helping propel them into 2nd place for Robot Performance award. Their unique robot design used a variety of sensors including gyroscope, ultrasonic, and dual color sensors to gauge robot position and automatically perform corrections if their robot detected it was veering off course. This design allowed the team to fulfil their strategy of performing a large number of missions accurately in a single run without having to waste critical time returning to base.

Upon receiving the Robot Performance trophy at the awards ceremony team member Raina Batra summarized well how the team collectively felt “This is a dream come true to be standing here with my teammates accepting this award.” While Aryan Bansal and Heainz Manoj expressed with jubilation “All the hard work over the season finally paid off!”. The team made lots of friends at the competition and learned a great deal about what it takes to build a winning robot. All members left the competition exhausted and inspired that with a little more work they too can achieve the coveted first place trophy.

As part of the FLL season, Team Promethio also developed an innovative phone/tablet controlled smart water flow sensor that garnered lots of attention during the competition with many visitors stopping by their presentation booth. The team was very excited to showcase their solution to the problem of water over consumption facing many towns around the country. Logan Slavin and Daniel Tavera demonstrated their solution to Livingston Mayor and the Town Council who felt the unique FitBit style feature of competing with friends and family through the smart app had great potential in changing water usage habits. They encouraged the team to continue enhancing the product so that one day it can be purchased in local hardware stores.

While each team had been working on the project independently, Team Spongebot coincidentally came up with an idea to solve the same problem that Team Promethio was trying to solve, but with a slightly different solution.

“In the average home, showering is the third largest water use per day,” said Tien Rattanasoontorn, a Spongebot member, “After several days of brainstorming, we created an idea called the HydroLite which is a showerhead the helped people conserve water by using LED lights.”

They worked on a prototype and presented it to many experts during the season. At the competition, they presented their design the prototype that measures the flow rate of the shower and shines the yellow light followed by the red light through the water to indicate to the user when to stop showering. It also has a microturbine to help re-charging its battery by using the energy from the water flow.

The competing teams also went to the robot design judging portion of the competition. This was when the teams had to explain how their robot work in the robot game. Team Spongebot showed their the strategy for their robot to flip the manhole covers on the game field which was one of the hardest missions of the robot game this year.

The competition also covered the core values judging where the judges revealed a task and asked the team to complete the task together. The core values challenged this year was to fill out a Mad-Libs word game about FLL. The Mad-Libs that Spongebot created ended up to be funny, and all the teammates had a pleasant experience.

After the morning judging sessions were finished, Team Spongebot started testing their robot on the competition game field at a practice round and found out that somehow their robot unexpectedly failed on many missions.

In the afternoon, Spongebot had to compete in three robot game matches. They experienced a roller coaster of emotions as they tried to do their best to modify the robot during the breaks between those matches to improve the robot’s performance. Unfortunately, the could not recover to attain the same scores as they originally planned. In the end, Team Spongbot received the 1st Place Robot Strategy and Innovation Award.

“In the morning, I was really energized because I think we did very well,” said Paxton Nithikasem, a 5th grade Spongebot member, “At the robot game matches, the robot just stopped working. Even though we didn’t make it to the next competition, we still had fun and that was the most important thing. I am also proud that the team received the Strategy and Innovation award.”

Team RoboRocks achieved the 4th highest scores in robot game, but missed the Robot Performance Award by only 5 points. They were very happy to improve the robot game ranking as well as all three judging areas over last year’s State Championship, and especially grateful for members of LRC team Exit 5A Robotics who volunteered at the event, who made the venue feel like home court. (Picture shows RoboRocks with Exit 5A Robotics member Maggie Siao.)

For their project, the team visited the Red Mill Museum Village in Clinton NJ and several Livingston water facilities. They talked (via Skype) to Prof. Qilin Li, an expert in water quality research in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department of Rice University, and researched a lot of materials that they found online. From the field trips and research and the recent news that 2 drinking water fountains in Collins Elementary School (where 3 of the team members attend) were replaced due to high lead level, they decided on the topic of water quality for drinking fountains. They created a survey and received nearly 200 responses two elementary schools in Livingston, and found that more than half of the students hardly ever drink from the water fountains in school because many of them feel that the water is not clean. The team then built a prototype called “RoboH2O” out of LEGO parts that can test water quality at drinking fountains. They came up with a catchy tagline of “Make the world green, most fountains are clean!”, and created a fun skit about the issues around drinking water fountains and their prototype to educate the students about water fountains, and to encourage them to drink more from water fountains instead of buying plastic bottled water. They presented the prototype to Prof. Li, and performed the skit to several local water experts and a congregation of all 5th graders at Mt. Pleasant Elementary school in Livingston.

For their robot design, RoboRocks got a head start by learning to use the gyro sensor, and improved their robot base by incorporating ideas from the highest-scoring robot in the 2017 FLL World Festival. They also built several robust and clever attachments to complete different missions. For the programming part, they made the programs more consist, flexible, reliable, and modular by creating several “MyBlock”s, which are custom programs that can perform a specific task, for example to turn a certain angle. They used the MyBlocks extensively in their robot game missions, and together with the improved robot base and effective attachments, they scored the highest points in the qualifying tournament, and achieved even more points in the State Championship.

For Core Values, the team assigned different roles for each member and learned to work more effectively as a team. They have been practicing Core Value games every week, which is usually the most fun part of the team meetings. Besides sharing their projects, they also demonstrated their robot game at LEGO Robotics programming classes in a weekend school to cultivate interests from other aspiring kids.

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