2018-01-18 / Front Page

ROBOWOLVES BACK ON TOP

Team wins second state robotics title in past three years


Jamestown Robowolves Ella Junge, left, and Audrey Raupp celebrate winning the state robotics championship Saturday at Roger Williams University. Peter Elsworth, the father of team member Charlie, also revels in the results. 
PHOTO BY PAULETTE JUNGE Jamestown Robowolves Ella Junge, left, and Audrey Raupp celebrate winning the state robotics championship Saturday at Roger Williams University. Peter Elsworth, the father of team member Charlie, also revels in the results. PHOTO BY PAULETTE JUNGE While they may not yet be the New England Patriots, the Jamestown Robowolves are building quite a dynasty of their own.

The team of three North Kingstown freshmen and a Lawn School seventh-grader outlasted 39 teams from across the state Saturday during the FIRST Lego League championship at Roger Williams University. By finishing first overall, Eva Junge, Ella Junge, Charlie Elsworth and Audrey Raupp advance to the world festival this April in Detroit. The team also won the state title for the 2015-16 season.

The league, founded in 1998, is an international robotics program for students between the ages of 9-14. Teams use Legos to build robots that score points on a game board with obstacles related to an annual theme. The 2017-18 theme is hydrodynamics, a branch of physics that deals with the motion of fluids.


Jamestown Robowolves Audrey Raupp, from left, Ella Junge and Eva Junge share the good news with teammate Charlie Elsworth via cellphone. Elsworth was unable to participate because he was recovering from surgery. 
PHOTO BY PAULETTE JUNGE Jamestown Robowolves Audrey Raupp, from left, Ella Junge and Eva Junge share the good news with teammate Charlie Elsworth via cellphone. Elsworth was unable to participate because he was recovering from surgery. PHOTO BY PAULETTE JUNGE Teams, along with building a robot to complete the missions, are tasked with researching the topic. For hydrodynamics, students explored methods that communities use to find, transport and dispose of water. The teams then identify a problem with that process and create an innovation solution.

Judges at the state championship evaluate students on their research projects, robot designs and core values, which includes teamwork and sportsmanship. They also score robot performances on the game board. Along with the highest overall score, the Robowolves won the top prize in that category.

The Robowolves’ coach, Dory Street’s Michael Junge, is a U.S. Navy captain and professor at the Newport Naval War College. He said his team, including his two daughters, began researching how water is wasted. After determining the main culprits were the toilet and shower, the Robowolves began brainstorming solutions to conserve that wasted water. The plan, however, unfortunately hit a roadblock.

“They had an idea and we bought materials for a prototype when the right, or wrong, keywords in a Google search showed that someone already had the exact idea on the market,” he said. “So, they started over.”

Back at the drawing board, the Junge family was cleaning out the car for a summer road trip when the girls noticed scattered water bottles. Most of them weren’t empty. After some research, the team learned 4 billion liters of water are transported annually to landfills in nearly empty bottles.

“Water in a landfill is taken completely out of the water cycle,” Michael Junge said. “We will never see it again. That’s a big deal.”

Determining a problem to solve, however, only is one step of the competition. Building a robot is trial and error, and the Robowolves spent plenty of time reading, building, rebuilding, coding and recoding.

“They came up with a robot they are looking forward to demonstrating in Detroit,” he said.

Finally, judges assess the teams on core values, which is similar to sportsmanship. According to Junge, he tells his team to be nice, work hard and congratulate the winners.

“Those are my words, but I think they sum up the idea pretty well,” he said. “When you can get a team to work together, to be friends, then the core values are easy.”

While the judges were impressed with the Robowolves for their core values, the team took it a step further. They began mentoring a fifth-grade team from Lawn School.

“That was a real centerpiece for them this year,” Junge said.

The team’s work with System Overdrive led to a research award for the fifth-graders at the state championship.

“Quite an accomplishment and showing of dedication and kindness,” said Mary Johnson, a board member of Rhode Island Students of the Future, the organization that administers the Lego league in the state.

“The Robowolves are very proud of that team and glad they could help them out,” Junge added.

Along with the Robowolves and System Overdrive, the Bubbly Coyotes and the Aquabots also represented Jamestown. While the latter three teams represent Lawn, the Robowolves are considered a neighborhood team, although all four members are connected to the middle school. Elsworth, Raupp and the elder Junge, Ella, graduated from there last spring. Eva is expected to graduate from Lawn with the class of 2019.

While Elsworth did the legwork with his teammates leading to the state championship, he was recovering from surgery and unable to participate in the tournament. He was, however, there in spirit. His dad, Peter, donned the Robowolves uniform at the tourney while standing beside the three girls for moral support. Despite his absence, the younger Elsworth still will receive the $10,000 scholarship to Roger Williams University awarded to students on the winning team.

Members of the other town team that left the tournament decorated, System Overdrive, are Tabatha Gooding, Aidan Lynch, Kaliel Soya, Cassidy Lineberry, Colby Engberg, Reagan Donnelly and Madison Donnelly. They are coached by Deborah Casey and Brenda Soya.

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