PECA Robotics Team Headed to State

PECA Robotics Team Headed to State

Pretty Eagle Catholic Academy’s Robotics Club is celebrating a big win, but they aren’t slowing down as they prepare for their next big competition.

“Robotics is really cool, and I’ve learned more about engineering than I did before joining," team member Aariah Slater said.

The team of seven students placed sixth out of fifteen at the Montana FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Tournament hosted by Ben Steele Middle School in Billings. The team will be moving on to compete at the state level in Bozeman on February 3, where 30 teams will compete for the chance to move onto the national competition.

According to its website the FIRST LEGO League is an introduction to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math or STEM for children, using a guided program that is designed to be entertaining and help them gain real world problem solving experience. The program puts emphasis on problem solving through technology and arts, and teamwork.

One of the categories students are judged on in competition is their teamwork capabilities. The league's challenge overview also lists teamwork as one of the core values, a value the kids at Pretty Eagle display thoroughly. 

Coach Dorcella Plain Bull, second grade teacher at Pretty Eagle discussed the return of Pretty Eagle’s Robotics Club. The school originally had a robotics club years ago, but the teachers and staff running it eventually retired or moved on, leaving the club to be disbanded.

Coach Plain Bull worked previously at Wyola, where she started a Robotics Club. When she moved to Pretty Eagle, she restarted the club, drawing on her previous experience. While Pretty Eagle had kept the old Robotics Club materials, they were outdated and needed to be replaced. 

Sebastian Kruger explained that he originally heard of the club from Coach Plain Bull. “She’s my kàale, she told me she was interested in the club, and so I joined. I’ve wanted to be an engineer before this.” 

The League requires students to build a robot to specification, program a code for the robot to perform 15 different tasks called "missions," and to display cohesive teamwork. The event gives students a guided program to help them achieve these goals. The fifteen missions all require different programming and designs to accomplish. Beyond the robot event, teams are required to plan and develop an “Innovation Project." The team came together and designed a LEGO replica of the Crow Nation Flag, using the piece to educate people about the tribe and the symbolism of the flag. Each student contributes information about the flag and the Crow Nation. 

“These kids have learned everything on their own,” coach Plain Bull explained.

“We help them when they need certain items but they’ve come up with everything on their own," assistant coach Alfretta Jefferson continued.

Assistant coach Jefferson also shared an observation she made on the student’s behavior, remarking that since these students have begun the program, there haven’t been any behavior problems.

“They’re a really good group of kids.” Coach Plain Bull proudly exclaimed. 

The students on the team each explained why they originally joined, and what kept them on the team. Of the eighteen students who have signed up, seven have remained.

Addison Knaub said, “My mom informed me about this, told me it was about engineering and I’ve been interested in engineering since I was little.” 

“Addison asked me to and I was just going to do it for my friend, but after coming in I started to enjoy it a lot," Karsyn Reeves said.

The FIRST LEGO League Tournament in Bozeman will have events open to the public from 10:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 3. The championship event will be live streamed from the MT Robotics Alliance - FIRST FTC YouTube account. The event’s schedule can be found on the Montana State University website.

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