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February 19, 2014
By
Mr. Larry D Mccaskill (Army Contracting Command)
Source: www.army.mil

For Team Panda-monium, putting the pieces together meant a first-place finish and a trip to the FIRST Lego League World Festival April 23-26 in St. Louis, Mo.

Lt. Col. Steven Maddry Jr., military deputy, Army Contracting Command Deputy Chief of Staff, Information Technology G-6, and Bill Jacobs, Control Systems Hardware Manager, Liquid Engines Office, Space Launch System Program, National Aeronautic and Space Administration, coached the Lego robotics Team Panda-monium to the victory in the 9-14 year-old category in competition recently conducted at Grissom High School in Huntsville, Ala.

Team Panda-monium members are: Anna Strutzenberg, Nicole Pritchard, Steven Maddry, III, Angel Jacobs, Miller Jordan and Sohan Dhar. The team members are all students of the Hampton Cove Middle School, in Hampton Cove, Ala.

Maddry said the competition is an after-school program hosted by elementary and middle schools, parent sponsored in-home clubs, and other organizations from across the state.

"Huntsville has a heavier distribution of teams because of the strong science and technology influence here," he said. "We started working on our project and robot design in September. The team meets twice a week for one and a half hours."

According to its website, the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League is a robotics program designed to stimulate children about science and technology and has more than 20,000 teams in more than 70 countries.

Maddry said the team had to build and program a Lego "Mindstorms" robot that could make its way through a 2-minute, 30-second obstacle course.

"It really takes a lot of time to work on the robot design, product design and presentations. As part of the competition, we were tasked to design a product or support mechanism aligned to the theme this year - Nature's Fury," Maddry explained. "Our team came up with a product design for a low cost RFID (Radio-frequency identification) bracelet that can be worn to find people during search and rescue. So the three hours a week was just the meeting times, the kids also spent many hours doing research at home and working on our presentation."

According to Maddry, the team has been invited to compete against a select group of 84 teams from 50 countries at the FIRST World Festival, April 23-26.

"Alabama is only invited to the world festival once every two or three years," Maddry said. "This is a great honor for Panda-monium. I'm so proud to see how well their efforts have paid off in the team's science and communication skills."

Getting to the state championship wasn't easy for Team Pand-monium.

"We placed third out of 24 teams in the regional competition (Huntsville /Madison area). That allowed us to participate in the state competition," Maddry said. "At the state competition, we took first place out of 35 teams, winning a trophy made of Lego blocks, of course."

The trophy is located in the Hampton Cove Middle School trophy case

"We stress the First Lego League core values, such as teamwork, work to find solutions and to learn in the process," Maddry said. "We want them to have fun while learning. You can't really ask for more than that."