Chimacum robotics students go to Amazon HQ

Local schools host competitions in April

Posted 2/27/19

Students in the Chimacum schools’ robotics program are staying engaged in the subject after their first competition last month.

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Chimacum robotics students go to Amazon HQ

Local schools host competitions in April


Students in the Chimacum schools’ robotics program are staying engaged in the subject after their first competition last month.

Chimacum Elementary’s all-girl Cyber Cheetah team of fifth-graders participated in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO Robotics League semifinals Jan. 19 at Amazon Headquarters in Seattle.

“This was an exciting event, and our students were able to see what’s possible of a career in STEM at Amazon Headquarters,” said Jenny Vervynck, behavior interventionist at Chimacum Elementary. “Some of our students had never taken a ferry before, so to compete with other high-level teams from western Washington was extremely exciting, especially in the amazing Amazon Doppler building.”

Chimacum Elementary Principal Jason Lynch praised the Cyber Cheetahs for being one of the only rookie teams to place in the semifinals. He credited the students “with support from their teacher coaches” and for coming to school an hour early to participate in the robotics club.

Chimacum Elementary had three teams with  30 total students compete in FIRST LEGO this year.

The students agreed with their teacher coach, Josette Mendoza, that teamwork was the key.

“Everybody is different, which means everybody has different ideas that may or may not work,” student Penina Vailolo said. “When one person had an idea, others had different ideas, and we argued. But I found listening to other people’s ideas rewarding. If I did it individually, I wouldn’t have had as many ideas, but as a team, we got lots of ideas.”

Amelia Jevne was worried about how many of the other teams seemed more prepared than they were, and she agreed with Calliope Mosher that they could have devoted more time to the project.

“Their teams were way more advanced,” said fellow Cyber Cheetah Brooke Tomasetti, who shared Emily Liske’s sentiment that it was heartening to work on an all-girls team.

Emily Robbins was psyched to be doing an engineering project at Amazon Headquarters.

“It wasn’t about robotics so much as it was about the core values of teamwork and problem solving,” said Mendoza, whose students said she started to cry because of how proud she was of her team.

Lynch expects the robotics program to continue next year, along with an expansion of the school’s STEAM focus, when Chimacum Elementary moves to its new grades 3-6 location on campus.

In the meantime, the Chimacum School District will host a robotics fair from 1 to 5 p.m. April 13 in celebration of National Robotics Week, complete with three different competitions:

1. A FIRST LEGO League Into Orbit mock competition for grades 4-8 with access to EV3 robots and the FLL Into Orbit mats.

2. An open-ended robotics demonstration in which students can showcase the creative tasks they can program a variety of robots to do.

3. Robotics 101: Mini lessons in which students become the teachers and present small lessons about components involving programming or robots.

“In preparation for the fair, the Chimacum Elementary School fifth-grade classes are opening up a robotics lab in the mornings before school to allow for students to work with EV3 robots,” Vervynck said.

Chimacum third-grade classes are setting aside some time for students to practice coding and to work with WeDo 2.0 robots; fourth-grade students are learning to program EV3 robots, while some of the classes at Chimacum Creek Primary are learning to program Edison robots from the Educational Service District, so their students can participate as well.

“The teachers and kids are working hard to make this a terrific opportunity to share what they are learning, and to let others know about the good work being done in the Chimacum School District, to prepare our students for the future in engineering sciences and math,” Vervynck said.

Tony Liske, Emily Liske’s father, admitted with a laugh that much of what his daughter does in robotics is “beyond me,” but he’s contributed by making the tables for the robots to operate on, and he said every one of his fellow team parents found the time to get their kids to Seattle for the competition.


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