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LMPS Robotics Club readies for competition

It’s 7:30 on a school-day morning and a group of LMPS (Lakeland Middle Preparatory School) students are playing with robots in the Makers Space off the school library.

But there is method to their fun as they design codes and engineer robots to compete in the VEX IQ Challenge, the next competition Saturday (1.18.20) in Collierville.

Quanta Spears, 6th grade STEM teacher and Robotics Club advisor, said the group of 10 students was formed this school year because of the talented students at LMPS.  “The kids here are naturally talented and skilled in robotics,” said Mrs. Spears.  “They are self-driven and focus on open-ended challenges.  I knew they could do well in this type of competition.”

Quanta Spears, left, with students

The students divide into two teams of coding and engineering although all students are familiar with both aspects. “They come up with their own designs, lay out what they want to do, solve problems and redesign if necessary.”

She said the competition is the largest, according to Guinness World Records and it is a great way for the students to showcase their talents.  Winning at a local competition can qualify teams for the state championship, said Mrs. Spears.

This year’s competition is entitled “Squared Away” so the focus is on lifting cubes, putting them on top of each other and into corners all done by remote control.  It’s about free design of construction robot vehicles with hundreds of small parts. LMPS students compete in a particular field with students from another school. Participants come from a variety of schools within Shelby County.

The Saturday competition will include robot inspections, skills, robot design judging and alliance matches.

There is another competition Feb. 8th in Jackson, TN.

The students participated in their first challenge in December in Millington.  “They started out great, coming in first in the first challenge,” said Mrs. Spears, although the team placed 24th in a field of 32 teams. She said the students were further challenged by a malfunctioned remote.  But they didn’t get discouraged, she said. They were able to borrow a remote from another team and keep going. “I was very pleased with the outcome.”

Ahead of a competition time, the students meet at 7 a.m. daily for three weeks.  During non-competition times, they meet 30 minutes one day per week.

Members of the team, all STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) students are:

8th graders                                 7th graders

Anderson Dean                           Hayden Grady

Sean Chung                               Kenan Hager

                                                Megan Nichols

                                                Madison Smith

6th graders

Porter Spiceland

Clark Wade

Li Alexander

Jay Anderson

Mrs. Spears said three years ago (LMPS opened in August 2017), she introduced the idea of the Club and competition and in the second school year she registered teams for the School.  “It’s very competitive and it fills up fast,” she said. “By the third year we were ready.”

Currently the Club is taking applications for next year and prospective members don’t have to be STEM students. “If they are interested and can be a valuable team member, they should apply,” said Mrs. Spears.  “There is room for growth.” The students guide each other with the older students mentoring the younger students.”  The Club is open to 5th through 8th graders at LMPS.

From RoboEvents.com, The VEX IQ Challenge, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, provides elementary and middle school students with exciting, open-ended robotics and research project challenges that enhance their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills through hands-on, student-centered learning.

… Photos, video by Jim Willis, Lakeland Currents