The Savage Sea Turtles: The seventh grade VSMS First Lego League team advanced to State, along with 6th and 8th grade VSMS teams.

One of them sounds like the company that employed hundreds making agricultural equipment in Vinton.

Another one sounds like an Antarctic waddling bird.

And one sounds like something that you might order at the local La Reyna Mexican restaurant.

But for the Vinton-Shellsburg Middle School First Lego Teams, the hawskbill sea turtle, the pangolin and the chinchilla are far-away creatures that have something to teach us now.

And by sharing the lessons they have learned about these not-so-well-known creatures, the sixth, seventh and eighth grade teams each earned the right to compete in the State event next month.

The 6th-graders, whom we wrote about earlier, discussed the chinchilla, a rabbit-like mammal in South America, which is often illegally hunted for its fur. They earned a spot at the Jan. 15 State event at the ISU campus in Ames a couple of weekends ago.

Then last Saturday, the seventh and eight grade teams competed at a separate event.

Teacher Jeff Mangold offered the following summary: “Both the seventh and eighth grade teams will compete at state on January 15th, the same date as the 6th-grade team. The state competition is held on the Engineering campus at Iowa State University.  The 7th-grade team won the Core Values award out of 31 teams at the Dubuque competition. To summarize, they showed gracious professionalism, which is seen as the most important value while competing in the FLL tournaments. ”

Gracious professionalism — called “Co-opertition” in Lego League lingo — refers to the tradition of teams sharing their information with those against whom they are competing.

The First Lego League contest includes presentations on a chosen topic; this year that topic was “animal allies.”

While the participant could choose from a variety of animal-related topics, said Mangold, all of the middle school teams chose one creature from the endangered species list to profile.

In addition to their presentations, and demonstrating their knowledge of the topic they chose, each team is also judged on its ability to build and program a Lego robot to perform a variety of challenges. Each team receives the same course and the same robotic equipment, and must come up with its own plan and designs to accomplish the mission. Each Lego League course is divided into several challenges, and teams earn as specific number of points for each mission their robot successfully completes.

Yet, explains the teacher, the robotics part of the competition counts less toward total team score than the students’ presentation.

The 7th-grade team (The Savage Sea Turtles) advanced to state with the following members:
Graham Henkle
Samantha Walton
Kate Hyland
Brynn Patterson
Jozee White
Kinzzy Miracle
Tess Lillibridge
Hannah McGowan
Bailey Weeks
Ian Pelton
The focus of their animal solution was finding a way to reduce the number of Hawksbill Sea Turtles, many of which are killed by getting caught in fishing nets.
The 8th-grade team (Pangolin Protectors) advanced to state with the following members:
Joey Ritter
Ayden Bearbower
Isaac Allsup
Joey Anderson
Elias Colsch
JJ Sloop
The focus of their animal solution was trying to reduce the poaching and selling of Pangolins (especially their scales) and to remove them from the critically endangered list.
See photos of the 6th graders practicing with their robot, and the 8th graders practicing their presentation, HERE.