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World of opportunities for East County competitors

Lakewood Ranch BotTanks will participate in state and international competitions.

Tess Lippincott and Matthew Goldberg work together to adjust the setting of their robot and add attachments to complete a mission.
Tess Lippincott and Matthew Goldberg work together to adjust the setting of their robot and add attachments to complete a mission.
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Placing in the top three at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League Regional Championship has opened doors to a world of opportunities for the Lakewood Ranch BotTanks team.

The BotTanks, a Student Advocates for our Versatile and Vibrant Youth robotics team, will compete March 28 at the Florida State Championship and May 6-9 at the South Carolina Global Invitational. The team is a nominee for the FIRST Lego League Global Innovation Award, which is a showcase of the real-world, innovative solutions as part of FIRST Lego’s annual themed challenge June 7-9 at Epcot in Orlando.

The BotTanks team includes Lexi Brielmann, a fourth grader at Robert E. Willis Elementary; Michael Merino and Matthew Goldberg, sixth graders at Mona Jain Middle School; Tess Lippincott, an eighth grader at R. Dan Nolan Middle School; Isaac Lippincott, Owen Lippincott and Jaxon Lemus, sixth graders at Nolan Middle; and Natalie Merino, a fourth grader at B.D. Gullett Elementary School.

Coach Tara Bergstrom-Merino said the upcoming events will be an opportunity for the team to see what others around the world see as problems in their respective countries as well as the different ways they approach making a robot to complete missions.

“For the kids to be able to talk to kids from different cultures that speak different languages and have different kinds of educational backgrounds is going to be interesting,” she said. “For the kids to hear all the different types of problems and see what kids are facing or what kids are worried about across the globe is going to be a really cool experience.”

This season, the BotTanks were tasked with identifying a problem with a building or public space in their community and providing an innovative solution to solve it.

The BotTanks developed a project on how to improve school safety in relation to school shootings through the use of sound technology. The team thought of a device that would emit a frequency to disorient the shooter and would then allow time for students, teachers and staff to get away.

“It’s really cool because you get to invent something that could possibly be used in the future,” Isaac Lippincott said. “And it’s really cool to help in school safety and show a ton of other kids what we’ve been doing and working on.”

At the South Carolina Global Innovation showcase, the BotTanks and 19 other teams from around the world will demonstrate their projects’ originality, creativity, and potential impact and value. The teams will receive assistance to further develop their solutions, including $20,000 to the winning team.

“I’m just excited that they’re going to have that experience [and that] they’re going to have that exposure,” Bergstrom-Merino said. “It will last them as long as they keep with it. I think that’ll open a lot of doors for them from colleges and things.”

Participating in the international and state competitions will be a learning experience for each member of the team as they make modifications to their robot.

“It’s a lot of learning for them in a very short, short time period, but it’s going to be a really unbelievable experience,” Bergstrom-Merino said.

No matter the results of any of the competitions, the team is excited to come this far. Last year, the team’s season ended at regionals.

“It’s exciting because we had set a goal to go further than we did last year, and we achieved that,” Tess Lippincott said.


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