The members of the Eastbrook Middle School robotics team took inspiration from a famous astronaut. The members named their team One Giant Leap after the heroics of Neil Armstrong, an American and the first person to walk on the moon.
Armstrong famously said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
The name also symbolizes in a way the team's "giant leap" into the world of FIRST Lego League robotics competition. FIRST is an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
Ethan Owens, one of the team members, said the name One Giant Leap is a tribute to Armstrong. Other team members are Danna Arizmends, Jazmine Ayabar, Rebeca Azua, Brett Cole, Peyton Morgan, Cristiany Pineda, Omar Rangel, Jayme Rogers, Ricardo Villatoro and Matthew Wilcox. All rising freshmen at Southwest Whitfield High School, they will join the Northwest Georgia College & Career Academy team Career Blazers Robotics — The Fighting Mongooses in the fall.
In December of last year, One Giant Leap competed in the FIRST Lego League robotics competition at the Career Academy against 24 other area middle school teams. They won a first place Champion Award and were recognized for having the highest-performing robot.
The team advanced to the Tennessee Chattanooga (North Georgia) Region championship at Chattanooga State Community College in February. They were one of 40 teams competing and received a second place Champion Award.
From May 16-19 the team was one of 80 teams from 11 countries that competed in the FIRST Lego League Razorback Open Invitational in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Amy Zock, the team's coach and the students' STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) teacher, said sponsors including Shaw Industries, the Dalton-Whitfield Community Foundation, other businesses and community and private sponsors helped make the trip possible.
"The League invites teams from all over the world to come together and 'create a solution to a problem,'" she said.
"It was a great opportunity for them," she said of the students.
Cole said he enjoyed competing in a "big setting" such as the international invitational and liked the theme.
"The theme was problems astronauts face while in space," he said. "Our goal was to connect solutions to a problem that relates to the theme."
It took the team two months to build a robot using Legos, program the robot and make attachments for the competition.
Ayabar said the team brainstormed ways to operate the robot. They also researched others' projects and tested ideas. They had to answer questions from the judges within a six-minute time frame.
The team also had the opportunity to work with another team by forming an alliance with a team from Brazil. Judges informed the teams of their alliance during the first day of competition, Zock said.
"Teams have to figure out how to run both robots simultaneously to get the most possible points," she said.
Azua said Brazil was a good team to form an alliance with.
"At first they were a little intimidating, but we learned a lot from them," she said. "It was a great experience being able to communicate, although English wasn't their first language."
Zock said she's "really proud" of the team members.
"I was scared the competition would be more than we had experienced, but they rose to the challenge really well," she said.
Zock said the team members work well together and she couldn't have asked for a better group.
"They are amazing and support each other beautifully," she said. "It was fun to watch them absorb everything."
Rangel said the team's success is due to Zock's dedication to them.
Zock received a trophy and was inducted into the FIRST Lego League Razorback Open Invitational Mentor Hall of Fame. She was nominated by the students while they were in Arkansas and a panel of judges interviewed the students throughout the week.
"She's a really nice coach who cares about us a lot," Rangel said.
Cole said the award is "well deserved."
"She's taught us not to give up, and make sure we think our project through," Cole said.