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When Legos Take Over

Colonial Trail Elementary's "Bionicle Brains" team.
Plastic robots took over the Deep Run High School gymnasium Nov. 13, as 24 teams of local students competed in the annual FIRST Lego League (FLL) Robotics Tournament at the school.

The teams sent their Lego robots into competition against others in the event hosted by the Deep Run Blue Cheese Robotics Team 1086, which annually competes in the high school FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge.

The FLL tournament introduces students in grades 4-8 to real world engineering challenges in which the students must design, build and program their own robots using “LEGO MINDSTORMS” technology. The competition is split into two categories, Division 1 Teams for elementary school students and Division 2 for middle school students.

“The purpose is to get kids excited and interested in science, technology and engineering and prepare them for the future,” said Ann Kutz, judge and volunteer.

Each year there is a different challenge – this year’s being “Body Forward,” which focused on biomedical engineering, or ground-breaking ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions and increase the body’s potential.

Teams are judged in four competition categories – each worth 25 percent – including Robot Performance, Project Presentation, Robot Design and Teamwork. Besides construction of a Lego robot that performs tasks on a playing field, the teams are asked to research a problem facing today’s scientists and present their findings.

The Bionicle Brains (pictured above), a team of fourth- and fifth-graders from Colonial Trail Elementary in Glen Allen, created a solution for poor circulation in the body as part of their project. “They came up with a made-up ‘button’ that would help monitor and increase blood flow in the body,” said Deb Gribbon, coach and fifth-grade teacher for Colonial Trail.

The Lego-robot battle – the “main event” – was held in the school’s gymnasium, where a few members of one team, consisting of 10 players, battled another team to see whose robot could complete the most tasks in two and a half minutes.

“It’s really fun, and you get to learn a lot about robotics,” said Elle Rosenbaum of the Bio Bots team. She’s a seventh-grader at Goochland Middle school and has participated the past several years.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization that helps students 6-18 foster an interest in math and science, learn life skills and prepare them for future career paths through their programs and annual competitions.

In addition to the FLL, the FIRST program also has a junior league for children in kindergarten through the third grade, and two high school competitions, FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC).

“We had six weeks to design, prototype, and build a 120 pound robot,” said Deep Run senior Matthew Petrie, a member of the Blue Cheese team, describing the FRC competition. During the FLL event, the team displayed last year’s robot – a four-wheeled machine that could kick around a soccer ball, which was inspired by the World Cup.

The Blue Cheese Robotics Team 1086 has been the regional winner at VCU for the past three years and won the North Carolina regional this year. It also won the Chairman’s Award last year for its ability to build and demonstrate robots to the community.

Fran Nolen, assistant coach of the Blue Cheese team and a high school physics teacher for 12 years, said the culture of the program has taken hold at Deep Run.

“I have an engineering background and have slowly made this a part of the curriculum here,” Nolen said.

FIRST was founded 1989 by Dean Kamen, an American entrepreneur and inventor. FIRST involves over 212,000 students, 19,134 teams, 57,376 mentors, over 34,000 volunteers and more than 3,500 sponsors including LEGO, NASA and many others. The program educates students in 57 countries about science and technology while building skills in innovation, leadership a nd self-confidence.


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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