When they’re not working to Save The Planet, the Rockin’ Robots and the Yellow Giraffes — two youth robotic clubs in Renton — are building designs for competitions. This year, the Yellow Giraffes are making their way to the Worlds championship.
From April 19 to 22, the FIRST Championship, an international youth robotics competition, will take place in Houston, Texas and the Yellow Giraffes — a robotics team that includes Braxton Fishler (6), Adalynn Kemery (7), Rohit Ram (7), Hannah Mattila (7) and Evan Jacobs (7) — were chosen to represent Washington state.
“We’re determined that all five get to go and all can be a team,” said coach Julia Fishler, who has started a GoFundMe to cover transportation and hotel costs for the trip.
For this year’s competition, the Yellow Giraffes (and all other teams in their age division) were tasked with showcasing sustainable, green energy with LEGO pieces. The Yellow Giraffes created an interactive LEGO community that showcases different types of energy sources, like hydro, solar, wind and geothermal.
“It works perfectly,” said Hannah, who focused on solar power in the LEGO model.
In the model, the small house for solar power has a sensor that detects sunlight, which allows the lights in the LEGO house to work. Underneath the house is a geothermal replica, which shows how a real home could be cooled and heated with the changing seasons. A waterfall was built out of LEGOs and uses a coding loop to show the “water” endlessly falling — according to Rohit, it only took him 30 minutes to write the code.
“It has 29 layers of waterfall,” Rohit said, referring to the layers of LEGO bricks needed to make the model, which demonstrates hydropower from a waterfall filled with Renton rainwater.
An electric car — represented by more LEGOs and a rubberband — was built that was charged by a windmill transferring power into the rubber band. The team’s community is completed by a motorized wave that transfers energy from a water turbine to power a carnival ride.
“We’ll have happy trees, happy clouds, happy sun, happy people, happy water, happy animals and happy parks,” said the kids about their LEGO model’s potential for generating sustainable energy.
The Yellow Giraffes were established in 2019 and became a junior robotics club to the Rockin’ Robots — which has seven members: Emma Chang (10), Milla Fishler (10), Kara Strien (10), Callie Graham (11), Hunter Kemery (11), Neha Ram (11) and Noah Yoon (12) — and though the Rockin’ Robots will not return for this year’s championship, they were still an instrumental part in helping the Yellow Giraffes become a 2023 representing team.
“They help find pieces, build the code and practice their presentations,” said Fishler, who has earned three coaching awards for her work with both teams.
At the 2022-2023 season State Championship for western Washington, the Yellow Giraffes were part of the FIRST LEGO League Explore division while the Rockin’ Robots competed in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge division. The Rockin’ Robots, with their hydro-powered waterspout prototype, went up against 320 other teams and earned the Core Values Finalist trophy.
The Rockin’ Robots did qualify for the FIRST Championship when they formed in 2018 and have won many awards since then, but what Fishler thinks is just as cool as the kids building robotics and competing for prizes is the fact that they are inspiring other kids to start their own clubs.
“These kids are spreading robotics throughout Renton,” said Fishler. “The Rockin’ Robots were formed because the Hazen [High School] Scarabs visited their school and showed them that robotics is awesome.”
For more information on starting a youth robotics club, contact Fishler at firstname.lastname@example.org.