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North Clayton is robo-ready

Middle schoolers prepare for state FLL competition

By Rachel Shirey

rshirey@news-daily.com

COLLEGE PARK — The North Clayton Middle School RoboTigers are prepared for battle.

The robotics team will represent Clayton County in the state championship round of the First Lego League competition at Georgia Tech on Saturday.

Team coach Nezetta Johnson said they’ve been practicing every day to keep focus and ensure they perform the best they can.

“We don’t have any down time,” Johnson said. “They’re working every day after school. They’re doing their academics during the day, and then they practice one hour each day after school. They’re keeping the same pace. School comes first, but then after school they practice for about an hour and they’re just trying to keep mentally focused ‘cause we have a lot going on.”

The team recently won first place at the regional FLL competition hosted at Clayton State University, but the team expects a tougher competition on Saturday.

“They’re nervous, they’re excited, I mean everything because they don’t know what to expect,” Johnson said. “We believe that 50 teams are going to be there. We don’t know how advanced the other teams are so it’s a little of both — they’re excited, they’re nervous, everything.”

Johnson also added that the youngsters are having fun, which she said is the most important aspect of the competition. That and the sense of camaraderie.

The competition will be an all-day event, and Johnson invites county residents to come show their support for the kids. She said any amount of encouragement or support can help raise the kids’ confidence levels.

The event will run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. in Georgia Tech’s Student Center.

Lego League is an international program that encourages hands-on robotic activities and designed to get children excited about science and technology.

Each team is allowed a coach and maximum of 10 players between the ages of 9 and 14. Teams have eight weeks from September to analyze their problem, design, program and test an autonomous robot to complete the project.

According to a press release, Saturday’s event is the state championship and the top team of the event will advance to the World Festival in St. Louis in late April.

With a theme of “Body Forward,” teams will explore the cutting-edge world of biomedical engineering to discover innovative ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions and maximize the body’s potential, with the purpose of leading happier, healthier lives.

So far in this year’s tournament, 337 teams have competed in 12 qualifiers and three super-regional contests, involving a total of 2,500 students. Through these qualifiers, the field was narrowed to 50 teams that will participate at the event Saturday at Tech.