Springside Chestnut Hill Academy students ready to compete in LEGO robotics competition

Knocking down a set of LEGO bowling pins with plastic balls fired with mechanical accuracy.

This task is one of several challenges a pair of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy robotics teams will have to conquer on Saturday during the First Lego League Challenge.

In preparation for the competition, which will be hosted by SCH, aspiring engineers in grades four through eight were asked to design, build and program robots with their teams of ten students. This year’s challenges, related to the competition’s theme “Senior Solutions,” required each team to create a robot that could assemble a broken chair as well carry items up a set of stairs.

“It’s smaller versions of different ways to help seniors,” Charlie Randall, a seventh grader who is helping to helm one of SCH’s teams, said Wednesday night during a work session at the school. “Right now we’re just working out all of the kinks in our programming.”

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Randall has been working with robots nearly his whole life.

“Every day after school I come back here, sometimes I’ll fool around or play with a bunch of kits or work on [our robot],” said Charlie Randall, whose father Peter Randall chairs SCH’s Engineering and Robotics Department.

But Charlie is not the only one who has a passion for robots.

Rob Ervin, one of the school’s robotics and engineering teachers, acknowledged the diligence of even his younger students.

“They certainly have been working hard,” he said. “We’ve got kids here when they could be home watching TV and doing other things but they want to be here.”

Sammy Deutsch and Sabrina Wang have worked together on building robots for as long as either can remember and are entering their third year of competition at SCH.

“We’re really excited. This is the first time we’re ever going to be captains,” Deutsch explained. “At first we were really scared, but now we’re laughing and we’re going to kick some ro-butt.”

Wang, who took turns commenting with Deutsch, added, “It’s not so stressful anymore. We’ve been through it two times and we know what to expect. It’s fun.”

Peter Randall said the school’s robotics program is all “about the kids.”

“The nice thing about the robots is it grabs, especially the younger kids, at a part of their brain, when they’re just naturally interested,” he began. “The idea of telling something to do something, and watching it follow their every direction, is just absolutely enticing. Once you get that you can teach them anything.”

The competition runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at SCH’s campus at 500 West Willow Grove Ave. A total of 25 teams will participate.

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