A local FIRST Lego League (FLL) robotics team named PHI’dback (pronounced “feedback”) that is managed and mentored by several employees of NASA's Dryden Fight Research Center was among the top teams that participated in a Nov. 16 FLL qualifier robotics tournament at Joe Walker Middle School's Stealth Academy in Quartz Hill, Calif. As a result, Team PHI'dback and several other high-scoring middle-school robotics teams will move on to the FIRST Lego League Regional competition scheduled for Dec. 14 in Torrance, Calif.
The robot from 25 participating middle-school teams were judged by a panel of aerospace engineers on their robot’s design and capabilities at the Lego League robotics competition. Each child took turns describing the reasoning behind their design’s elements and capabilities; the bot’s performance figured into the score as well. PHI’dback won first place in the robot design phase of the tournament.
Quin Pierce of Spirent Communications is head coach of Team PHI’dback, with assistance from NASA Dryden employees Joe Pahle, Tim Cox and Gray Creech and Lane Lineberger from Lockheed Martin.
A second PHI robotics Lego League team, PHI Apprentice from Acton, also qualified for the regionals in Torrance on Dec 14. The teams received awards in the categories of project presentation, robot design, and robot performance. Both teams are composed largely of middle-school-age students who are home schooled, and are supported by the two local high-school-age FIRST Tech Challenge PHI robotics teams with material, kits, and registration fees.
Several NASA Dryden employees served as judges for the Lego League qualification tourney, including Larry Cliatt, Joel Ellsworth, Ashley Parham and Kate Pavlock, who also presented awards to the winning teams.
NASA Dryden, along with a number of other community and business entities, co-sponsor teams from Antelope Valley, Lancaster and Tehachapi high schools in the annual FIRST Robotics Competition each spring, including the Eagle Robotics team at Lancaster High School, the Cyber Penguins at Tehachapi High School and the Robolopes at Antelope Valley High School.
The center also supports several of the 13 high school teams in the center's immediate surrounding area that participate in the FIRST Tech Challenge each winter that use smaller and less-expensive robots than those used by teams in the FIRST Robotics Competition. Those teams include the PHI Robotics and Garagebots teams.
More than 30 FIRST Lego League teams for middle school students are active in the same general area, many of them supported and mentored by their high school counterparts.
FIRST, an acronym denoting For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an international non-profit educational organization that promotes science and technology education. It's robotics programs are designed to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills, while motivating young people to pursue academic opportunities.
Alan Brown, Public Affairs
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center