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Girl Scout robotics team wins teamwork award

Contributed by: Brenna Humann on 2/15/2008

Story and photo submitted by Heidie Rigert

Team "sAVvy," the Antelope Valley Girl Scout robotics team, won the Teamwork Award at the F.I.R.S.T. Lego League's (FLL) Los Angeles Regional Robotics Championships Saturday, Jan. 26.

"It shows that we really did do good teamwork. I think we did really well during our first season overall, because we won either one or two awards in each of our two tournaments and we also won an award in the championship," said Aisha Rigert, a Cadette Girl Scout who founded the team a year ago.

F.I.R.S.T.'s (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competitions are designed to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology.

Participating on a competition team is a fun way to learn about mechanical design and computer programming as well as teamwork and other life skills.
The F.I.R.S.T. family of competitions includes robotics, Vex Challenge and Lego League.

"I think that my daughter has gained a lot of confidence and has had a very positive experience. It helped build her self-esteem and the whole experience has taught her that working hard and determination can have really good outcomes," said Wendy Burkey, a parent of one team member.

Each year, F.I.R.S.T. Lego League (FLL) teams must build robots to master various themed "missions." This year's challenge involved a "Power Puzzle," in which the teams examined the impact of personal energy choices on the environment, economy and life around the globe.

In a battery of different missions, teams had to build a robot, based on the "Lego Mindstorm NXT kit," that could complete as many missions as possible. Competitors design the robot by writing their own programs in software using "blocks" that make the robot move or interact.

Various missions this year included the mock moving of "solar panels," placing "hydro-dams" on a "river," connecting "communities" to "power plants" via power line grids, moving "wave turbines" into an "ocean," processing harvested "corn" and "planting trees."

The competition's Teamwork Award is presented to the team that best demonstrates extraordinary enthusiasm, exceptional partnerships and the practice of "gracious professionalism," a top FLL goal.

To win the award, the team competed in the day-long championship event along with 20 other top-ranked teams from the Los Angeles region, including teams from Sacred Heart and Desert Christian schools.

Scores were derived from, "A combination of an interview with a judge, a teamwork activity where you have to solve a problem in five minutes or less, and how well the team worked together during the three performance rounds with the robot," explained Rigert.

Each team also delivers a presentation based on the year's research assignment.

Team sAVvy is sponsored by SETLA, the Scientists, Engineers and Technicians Leadership Association. The association, based in the Antelope Valley, provided the robot, laptop computer, field set-up kit, and other supplies for the inaugural season as well as two mentors for the team - Renee Pasman and Vanessa Hartenstine.

"Obviously I am very impressed (with the award), especially since they are a rookie team. It is a testament to how they work together as a team," said Pasman, one of two Lockheed Martin engineers who coached the girls during their first season. "I am so impressed by all the work and effort the girls put in, and all the preparation they put in at the meetings. They worked together and learned a whole lot about science and technology. They weren't afraid to ask questions - that's how they learned ... and were successful."

Rigert started the team as a service project for her Girl Scout Silver Award, the highest honor a Cadette Girl Scout can earn. Rigert has spent many hours during the past year planning and implementing her project.

"I am grateful that Aisha picked this to be her silver project so my daughter could be involved in it," Burkey said. "Without Aisha's hard work, there would not have been a robotics team. She used her dad's experience and her mom's, not to better herself, but a whole group of girls."

This spring, sAVvy will begin recruiting additional team members for the FLL 2008 to 2009 tournament season, which runs August through January. Girls ages 9 to 14 are eligible to apply.

Those interested should contact Pasman or Hartenstine by e-mail at ru.savvy@yahoo.com.

"I am looking forward to next season and seeing what the girls can do," Pasman said.

For information about the F.I.R.S.T. Lego League, visit www.firstlegoleague.org.

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's pre-eminent organization dedicated solely to girls - all girls - where, in an accepting and nurturing environment, they build character and skills for success in the real world.

In partnership with committed adult volunteers, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives, such as leadership, strong values, social conscience, and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.

For more information about Antelope Valley Girl Scouts, contact the Girl Scouts - Joshua Tree Council's Lancaster Service Center in the Lancaster Marketplace, 2330 Mall Loop Road, Suite 119, Lancaster.

You can also call 661-723-1230 or fax 661-951-0680.

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