After months of dedication, innovation and preparation, the Boa Constructors 4-H robotics team from Monroe County took on the FIRST Lego League World Championship and learned that hard work pays off.
Representing the West Virginia University Extension Service 4-H Youth Development program, the group of nine 4-H’ers competed from April 27-30 in St. Louis, Missouri and did not go unnoticed by the judges. They took home the first place Inspiration Award and ranked 39th in the robot games against more than 100 teams from 30 countries.
“The award is very appropriate for this group because it’s exactly what they embody: inspiration,” said Monroe County WVU Extension Service Agent Don Dransfield. “They took on the challenge and stayed committed to the mission of the program under their own motivation and determination – and even preceded to help other teams do the same.”
According to WVU Extension Service 4-H STEM Specialist Jen Robertson-Honecker, the 4-H STEM program is an influencing factor to the team’s win in the Core Values section of the competition which encourages teamwork and friendly competition.
“The 4-H motto is about making the best better. That motto isn’t about achieving perfection — it’s about making the world a better place for ourselves and our community, which is epitomized in FLL’s Core Values,” she said.
The Boa Constructors jumped into the competition with a presentation of their robot Quazzy, which they built from scratch with Legos and a computer code. Following the game table demonstrations, they were interviewed by the judges and exemplified the very Core Values for which they were awarded.
“FLL says that this competition is about more than just robots,” the team’s 4-H volunteer leader Callie McMunigal said. “I think it mirrors 4-H in the way that it inspires kids to learn not only skills, but also values that create well-rounded people.”
Along with competing, the team enjoyed the opportunity to meet people their age with similar interests from around the globe.
“It was really cool to learn about different cultures and make new friends,” team member Ian Jackson said.
The Boa Constructors began interacting with other cultures from the moment they arrived at the team greeting event. They were chosen from a hat to do an impromptu welcome skit on stage in front of more than 40,000 people.
With a rendition of Country Roads, the team introduced themselves and represented West Virginia while breaking out of their comfort zones.
“It was nerve-racking to be in front of that many people, but we overcame our fears and had a lot of fun,” team member Luke Jackson said.
Before leaving St. Louis, the Boa Constructors had the chance to attend a Cardinals baseball game offered by FLL, where they participated in a parade between innings, boasting the West Virginia flag around the stadium.
The team said that none of this could have been possible without the support of the community.
“The local response to a 4-H team going to the competition blew our minds,” McMunigal said. “People in the community are taking great pride in this team standing against the world.”
With the initial goal to raise $15,000 for the trip to the world championship, the team was surprised when they ended up raising $25,000 thanks to help from sponsors and fundraisers in the community.
Among the sponsors who helped the team go to the World Championship are 4-H, STEM Enterprises, NASA, Southwestern Energy, United Technologies, First Energy Foundation, Thrasher Engineering, ASEA Brown Boveri, Von Alt Foundation, Spectrum Brands, Mountain Valley Pipeline, South West Virtual Reality Conference, Military Affiliate Radio System and more.
The team plans to give back by providing support to more 4-H robotics teams they hope will form as a result of their impact.
For more than a century, 4-H has focused on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship and natural sciences. Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities also exist in subjects like rocketry, robotics, biofuels, renewable energy and computer science.
CONTACT: Brittany Dick, WVU Extension Service
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