Middle School Robotics Teams Set a Trajectory for State Tournament

By 4th–8th grade STEAM and Coding teacher Adam Colestock

The regular season for the MS Robotics First LEGO League (FLL) teams wrapped up before December Recess. This year’s competition theme was Into Orbit, meaning the robot challenges and the design project focused on humans venturing into space and other planets within our solar system.

After preparing for several months, the teams participated in three interviews at the tournament representing the different aspects of FLL. They discussed their robot design, presented the design project they developed and, for a Core Values interview, worked together to accomplish a challenge in five minutes and answered questions about collaborating during the course of the season. They had to think about how to apply FLL’s Core Values of discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun to their lives within the context of their work with the team and outside robotics.

Teams also had four two-and-a-half-minute table runs in which the robots they built, using the LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics kits, had to autonomously drive around and interact with mission models built from LEGOs to score points.

Here is a brief summary of their work this year and the results of their tournaments:

Flying with Pigs
is a team of 6th graders participating in FLL for the first time. For their design project, they investigated how to help astronauts fall asleep more easily and avoid sleep deprivation while in orbit on the International Space Station where a sun that sets and rises every 90 minutes replaces the natural 24-hour light/dark cycle. For their research, they took advantage of a team meeting with this year’s visiting Pritzker scientist, Dr. Eve Van Cauter, an expert on circadian rhythms at the University of Chicago. The team received a Judges Award, which recognizes teams for remarkable work that the standard award criteria does not capture.

Orbital Octopi
is also a team of 6th graders participating in FLL for the first time. For their design project, they investigated food production in space. The team built on the research and learning of last year’s Sophisticated AI FLL team for their design project on hydroponics. They even had a chance to learn from and present some of their ideas to Sophisticated AI’s Jake Boxerman ’22, who is now participating in FTC Robotics in the Upper School. The team received the Champion’s Award, which recognizes a team that embodies the FIRST LEGO League experience by fully embracing the Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and Project.

is a team of 7th graders. For their design project, the team shared their nature-inspired engineering solution to the problem of transporting large drone wings to other planets. They proposed developing foldable solar-paneled wings using a new form of spring-based origami recently discovered in earwig wings. The team had been in communication with researchers at ETH Zurich and Purdue that have been studying the earwigs and exploring ways to prototype mechanisms based on the remarkable biology of the earwig wing. The team received a Robot Design Award for their clever modular system, which they incorporated into their robot and allows them to switch between different attachments to accomplish the missions at the table.

SOS: Lost Cause i
s a team of 8th graders. For their design project, they shared their idea for a biologically inspired robot to dig through the top layer of Earth to access precious ice on Mars. They learned how In-Situ Resource Utilization (ISRU), or making use of resources on other planets, would play an essential role in making exploration or settlement possible on the moon or Mars. The team’s robot incorporated some innovative ways to solve this year’s missions, which attracted the attention of other teams and coaches eager to learn from our team’s LEGO engineering prowess.

Congratulations to everybody on all four teams for their hard work and representing Parker so well at these events!

All four Middle School teams presented aspects of their activities this season at a Morning Ex, and Flying with Pigs, the Orbital Octopi and the Masteroids will participate in the state tournament in mid-January.

Click here for photos.

Flying with Pigs

Jack Adee
Lincoln Hamid
Zarin Mehta
Issy Parsa
Shade Rothkopf
Judah Solomon
Eli Terman
Coaches: Adrian Leo and Jen Marshall

Orbital Octopi

Ellis Brown
Brian Kehoe
Beckett Nikitas
Beckett Selikow
Jack Spencer
Emma Webster
Coaches: Adrian Leo and Jen Marshall


Caleb Aklilu
Nate Bronstein
Owen Cha
Jaylen Jin
Arjun Kalra
Grant Koh
Krish Malhotra
Noah Pendo
Warner Vance
Coach: Adam Colestock

SOS: Lost Cause

Ethan Farkas
Jack Kahan
Ryan Kershner
Timo Kiep
Drew Klauber
Coach: Adam Colestock
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.