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2/6/2013 2:28:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
Photo submitted by Steve Keene
The Cashmere Roborockers, from left, Ryan Kruiswyk, Ani Hartwich, Katelyn Cooper, Jessie Nixon, Garrett Smith and Sam Wilson competed in the state qualifying competition for robotics. The fourth grade team won the most “Innovative Solution” award and came in eighth place in the Robot Game.
Cashmere Roborockers win award for research project
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

The Cashmere Roborockers, a Chelan and Douglas county 4-H Club and FIRST Lego League robotics team from Vale Elementary recently competed in the Washington state qualifying round at Central Washington University on Jan. 26. The young Roborockers didn't qualify for the State level competition but they did win an award for the most "Innovative Solution."

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology) is an international organization that Steve Keene brought to the Vale Elementary school in Cashmere to start a team. The Cashmere Roborockers are all fourth-grade students and started up as a team last year in the third grade.

With a year of experience, the group of fourth-graders competed in the competition for the first time. Katelyn Cooper, Ani Hartwich, Ryan Kruiswyk, Jessie Nixon, Garrett Smith, and Sam Wilson competed in all four events at the competition. The four events are Core Value, Project Presentation, Robot Design, and Robot Game. The team is led by coach Keene and mentor Jenn Cooper.

The team finished eighth place in the Robot Game and won the most "Innovative Solution" award for their research project. Each year, the team is to build a robot for the competition. The teams are also given a theme and this year the theme was "Senior Solutions."

"We went to Columbia Heights in Wenatchee and interviewed senior citizens to find out what they have difficulties with in their every day lives," Keene said. "The kids came up with a number of things but they decided to build a heated tabletop because some of the senior citizens had complained about their granite table tops making their hands cold and their food cold."

Keene said one of the team member's father installs heated floors so he helped with the project. The team was responsible for finding a problem, researching a specific topic, find a potential solution to it, build a concept design and then publicly present what they had done.

"They really liked our project because it was so different than everyone else's so we were awarded the innovative award," Keene said. "We didn't make it to State but this is our first time and we feel pretty good about finishing in the middle of the other groups."

The finished project was a heated tabletop for retirement home dining rooms with granite tables.

The competition is over but the Cashmere Roborockers will continue to learn about robots and work with their research project. Keene said part of the project is sharing the experience with the community. Within the next couple of months, the team will go back to Columbia Heights to share with the residents their successful project and how they made it.

The team meets weekly at Vale Elementary School and plans to exhibit their work to all the local students and families during the upcoming Science Fair in March. Keene said the team is still at the beginning stage so throughout the school year they plan on continuing to work with their robot more and learn how to control it.

"They have grown so much since last year and have made a lot of progress even in just the past few months," Keene said about his Roborockers team. "We have come a long way but still have a long ways to go. But I am proud."

Keene also encourages other robotic teams to form in the area. He said all you need is an adult or two who is willing to work with students. There are four different levels of robotics teams, JrFLL, FLL, FTC, and FRC, for students from first grade through high school.

Last year, the Cashmere Roborockers participated in the Junior FLL as third graders. This was their first time in FLL and first experience working with robots they built and computer programmed to run completely autonomously. Keene said, to start a robotics team, you can contact Michelle Lain, the 4-H program assistant for the Washington state extension office in Wenatchee, at 667-6540.

Keene said the FLL Core Values are the cornerstone of the program and are among the fundamental elements that distinguish FLL from other programs of its kind. He said by embracing the Core Values, participants learn that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals, and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or

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