More than 200 elementary and middle school students from Hillsborough, Pasco, Pinellas and Bradenton counties competed this year at the FIRST Lego League (FLL) qualifying robotics tournament on Dec. 8, at the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College.
It marked the fourth year in a row that Desh Bagley and her Riverview-based TechPlayZone students and parents, from Greater Brandon and the southeastern Hillsborough County area, ran the tournament as a fundraiser for team efforts.
At the Columbus Drive campus of Hillsborough Community College, and in partnership with FLATE, the tournment got under way with 15 teams from the Tampa Bay area competing to secure a bid for the upcoming Tampa Bay regional competition.
Emerging victorious: the Wired Wildcats and Knights of Technology, both from Pinellas County, and the Cyborgs of South Tampa.
They join other teams advancing, including those victorious at a competition in Pasco County the week before and at Middleton High School on Dec. 15.
Bagley noted that the two teams from TechPlayZone — "the champion Techno Wizards and the rookie Programming Thunderbots" — were in attendance Dec. 8 at the Brandon campus of Hillsborough Community College, but couldn't compete in the tournament because it was a fundraiser for TechPlayZone.
"Team members, along with their parents, volunteer at the qualifying tournament, which provides an opportunity for other FLL robotics teams to advance to the next level," Bagley said.
"As TechPlayzone's [Techno Wizards] cheered on the winners of the tournament, they felt pangs of anticipation" she added. That's because the Techno Wizards secured a bid to regionals, by winning the championship award at Rushe Middle School in Pasco County the week before.
The Programming Thunderbots, at the Dec. 15 qualifying tournament at Middleton High School, took home the award for Best Robot performance. The tournament was hosted by the FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) Team Minotaur, as a fundraiser for their robotics program. Seventeen teams competed.
"Their robot scored the highest points of the day," Bagley said, about the Programming Thunderbots. "Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to secure a regional bid."
The championship team at Middleton was the Mustechs from Mulrennan Middle School in Valrico.
Also advancing to regionals: the Winthrop Mindstorms of Valrico, the rookie team from Winthrop Charter School; Panther Tech of Fort Myers; and the Ibots of Tampa.
The next FLL qualifying tournament will be at Coleman Middle School in Tampa on Saturday, January 5, 2013. The public is welcome to watch the robot games and interact with the teams.
The Tampa Bay FLL Regionals are scheduled for Feb. 9 at Middleton High School. The tournament is free and open to the public.
In all, there are six regional tournaments in Florida.
Eight teams from each regional tournament will advance to the state FLL tournament, set for the University of Central Florida in Orlando in March 2013.
From that tournament, one team will earn the right to represent Florida at the FIRST Lego League World Festival in St. Louis, Missouri.
This report is based on a news release submitted by Desh Bagley of TechPlayZone in Riverview.
- Robots Roll Into Hillsorough Community College Brandon Campus (2010)