September 17, 2014

Elyria
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LEGO creation earns kids a state bid

It doesn`t always take a scientist to build a robot.

In fact, sometimes all it takes is a group of home-schooled boys with a knack for building with LEGO blocks.

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
Their LEGO robot

Bobby Johansen, 14, of North Ridgeville, Greg Knechtges, 13, of Grafton, and Carl and David Sadowski, 15 and 11, of Avon, make up The Quantum Bots, a team that claimed first place for designing and programming a robot made of LEGO pieces in the FIRST LEGO League competition on Saturday at Hawken School in Lyndhurst.

The win qualifies them to compete in the FIRST LEGO League Championship on Jan. 12 and 13 at Wright State University in Dayton.

The Quantum Bots was the only Lorain County team to compete in the regional tournament.

The team received marks of excellent from the judges in the categories of research project, teamwork, robot design and robot performance, said Michelle Johansen, mother of Bobby Johansen and one of the team`s coaches.

This is the third year the team has advanced to the state competition, although it was the first time it claimed the top prize. Two years ago, the team placed sixth, and last year it was second.

“They`ve steadily improved each year,” Johansen said.

Their winning robot was made of LEGO pieces, movable parts and an electric motor, and is programmed by a computer to retrieve items and perform other tasks.

The boys worked on the project for about three months, said Chris Ignasiak, mother of Carl and Dan Sadowski and a coach for the team. They met twice a week for three hours, and then every night the week before the competition.To prepare for the contest, Carl Sadowski said that each of the four team members took home a robot set and came up with their own individual robots.

“We took the best aspects of each robot and combined it into one robot,” he said.
And the hard work paid off. Their robot scored 380 out of a possible 400 points in two of the three competition rounds.

“I think that`s the most fulfilling part, seeing them doing this and working hard and then doing well at the end and accomplishing something,” Ignasiak said.

Given its score at the regional competition, the team is hopeful it can duplicate the results at the state level.
“We can get a perfect score now, but we`ll be making it more reliable,” Bobby Johansen said, explaining that the boys plan to tweak it to improve its accuracy.

In addition to the robot, they had to meet the second part of the contest – Power Puzzle. To fulfill the challenge, the team conducted an energy audit of the Avon Old Town Hall. From the audit, they devised ways to make the building more energy efficient, such as insulating the attic and changing the furnace filter regularly.

Old Town Hall was a great place for the boys to do their research, Johansen said.

“It`s small enough that they could do a thorough and complete job and they could make recommendations that could be useful,” Johansen said. “The historical society was very helpful.”

The boys` success comes at a price, however. It costs $1,200 to $1,500 to enter the competition, so the boys all do fundraising to offset it – they are selling Christmas wreaths this year. The boys also are seeking sponsorships. Cleveland Clinic and Metro Toyota have sponsored the team in the past, but a sponsor hasn`t been found yet for this year.

Contact Kristen Halliday at 653-6285 or khalliday@chroniclet.com.