Rocklin team takes two awards at robotics competition

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Rocklin's rookie robotics team, Tech Tofu, participated in the First Lego League's) Capital Championships Feb. 9 at Inderkum High School in Sacramento and won two awards – FLL's Innovative Solution Award and Kid's Choice Award for Coolest Project.

"Since it was our first year, we made a lot of mistakes,” said team member Haagen Woodford. “I am so thankful though that we were recognized by both the judges and other teams for our hard work.”

First Lego League is an international program created by FIRST and LEGO, designed to get children interested in and excited about science, technology and engineering. Every year, FIRST releases a new challenge that engages teams in hands-on robotics design and scientific research. The theme for the challenge is different each year, allowing teams to learn about a variety of subjects, according to

Teams are judged in three main areas – Robot Game, Core Values and Project. For the Robot Game, teams build and program an autonomous robot using LEGO Mindstorms technology to score points in a two-and-a-half-minute match played on a themed playing field. They are also judged on their robot design. For Core Values, the teams are judged on teamwork and how well they demonstrate FLL values like gracious professionalism and “coopertition” (cooperation and competition). For the project, teams develop an innovative solution to a problem that today's scientists and engineers are trying to solve, and share their findings.

For this year's "Senior Solutions" project challenge, the teams had to interview a senior and create an innovative solution to a problem faced by their senior partner.

Tech Tofu came up with the idea of concealing a fall-detection device in a robotic therapeutic pet to both overcome their senior's resistance to the device and to provide a companion for her. They call him H.E.N.R.Y. (Helpful Emergency Needs Robot for You) to honor their senior partner, 98-year-old Pauline Foote, who enjoyed calling the lizards in her backyard Henry.

"It was fun programming, building the robot and attachment, and doing the project, but the most interesting part for us was learning so much from other teams,” said team member Shaurya Grover.

Tech Tofu comprises Nathaniel Daniel and Haagen Woodford from Rocklin Academy; Shaurya Grover of Granite Oaks Middle School; Charley Holmes of Western Sierra Collegiate Academy; Ronak Brar of Valley View Elementary School; and Davin Nguyen of Rocklin Elementary School.

H.E.N.R.Y was a hit at the championships, winning both FLL's Innovative Solution Award & Kids' Choice Award for Coolest Project.

"Our team gave it all they had,” said project coach Brandt Woodford. “They won first place in the Innovative Solution category for their team's project, as well as Kids' Choice award from their peers for that project. We are all happy with the whole experience."

The FLL Innovative Solution Award recognizes a team’s solution that is exceptionally well-considered and creative, with good potential to solve the problem they researched. Kids' Choice Awards are based on picks made by other team members.