Carolina Denniker

Caroline Denniker, left, Alana Chen, Shivam Patel and Elaina Beckwith of the "Enginerds" from Bridgeport Middle School work with their Lego robot Saturday at Fairmont State University.

FAIRMONT — The “Enginerds” came to Fairmont Saturday.

The team of four students from Bridgeport Middle School took part in the FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament at Fairmont State University.

They are one of several teams that took part in the competition, held in Colebank Gym. The university hosted and sponsored the event, along with several additional sponsors.

The team, made up of Caroline Deniker, Alana Chen, Shivam Patel and Elaina Beckwith, brought their robot, which had different attachments and had been programmed to perform such tasks as pushing blocks and lifting.

Team members said it was a learning experience. Chen said this was because most of them didn’t know a lot about programming at first.

But they worked together and created the programming for their robot, which they said took 11 weeks.

Tournament Director Todd Ensign said the qualifying tournament is one of seven tournaments being held across the state.

There was also one in Parkersburg Saturday. In the future, there will be tournaments in Beckley, Romney, Huntington, Morgantown and Shepherdstown.

He explained what the competition is all about.

“FIRST LEGO League is a robotics competition for students ages 9 to 14,” he said.

The students build the robots with Legos using a robotics platform, he said. According to Ensign, the theme and topic changes each year, and the students have to build a unique robot to solve challenges on a thematic competition field.

“This year’s theme is about building and cities,” he said, noting that it’s called “City Shaper.”

He thought the students did well with the theme.

“It seems like they’ve done interesting research projects and it’s pretty easy to connect to,” he said.

Ensign said the students are getting very creative with the Legos.

“Every year, the robots are totally unique because the challenge changes,” he said. “One year, they might pick up balls. This year, it’s picking up these cubes that are symbolizing blocks of a building. They’re not just pure cubes. They all have like a little indent or outdent, so they’re almost like Tetris. They have to carry them over and stack and build a building, and they get points for the higher the building is. It’s just one of the challenges.”

Karen O’Neil coaches the “Radioactive” team from Green Bank Elementary/Middle School in Pocahontas County. She said their robot was designed by the children in fourth to seventh grade.

“They did all the designing themselves,” she said. “They actually built three different robots, three separate robots. And then they combined all the best parts of those robots into this one, which they call ‘The Ultimate Robot’ that they run.”

She said the students program the robot, and then push the buttons to run the code that they wrote.

“They’re having a blast,” she said. “It’s a good time. Most of our team is brand new to this type of tournament, and they’re having a good time with the whole thing.”

“I’m enjoying it a lot,” said one of the students, Tristan Sizemore, 10. “I learned a lot about how to build the robots and program them.”

Ensign said the students also give three presentations, in addition to competing head-to-head with the robots.

“The presentation topics are robot design, which addresses what they built and how they built it, how they programmed it,” he said. “They have one called ‘Research Project.’ Each year, following the theme, they do like a science fair project. And so they present what their problem was about cities and how they think they should solve it.”

The “Lunar Stars” team from Heritage Christian School in Bridgeport did their project on hurricane awareness.

“We had a lot of fun on the project,” said Team Leader Alexa Myers.

They recommended making posters and websites to raise hurricane awareness.

Ensign said there is also a presentation called “Core Values,” which he said focuses on how they worked together as a team.

“The teams are ranked based on how well they did in their presentations by a panel of judges and how well they performed in field,” he said. “Half of the teams from that ranking will advance to the state championship.”

Eric Hrin can be reached at 304-367-2549, or

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