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.
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The J.R. Tucker High School Drama Boosters will host the “Race to the End” Color Run from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the school, 2910 N. Parham Rd. Participants of the event will be rewarded with post-race events on campus including vendors, concessions and kid activities. Race registration includes bib, color packet and t-shirt (guaranteed to participants that register by May 4). Cost is $25 for students, $35 for adults and $30 for groups of five or more. Proceeds from the race will benefit the J.R. Tucker School String Players’ trip to Edinburgh, Scotland to perform in The Fringe. To register, visit http://bit.ly/JRTcolorrun. Full text

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