Animal Allies and The 2016 VA DC (FLL)First Lego League Tournament

Story by Areeja Smith, Terrance Matthew and Kori Johnson. Photos by Kori Johnson.

The VA DC (FLL) First Lego League took place on Saturday, November 19, 2016, at Friendship Collegiate High School. This years theme was “Animal Allies”. Teams explored the relationship between people and animals. Dozens of teams from Washington DC and Virginia came out to participate in this years FLL tournament with the theme Animal Allies.  Among those teams were Friendship Chamberlain’s Robotic Stars 3.0 team. This team has attended the tournament for four years in a row.  Many teams work for months to develop their projects and robots so they can develop their strategy over time.  When Animal Allies (the theme) was announced in August, the Chamberlain Robotics Stars 3.0 began working. The Chamberlain Robotics Stars 3.0 developed their core values, built an Ev3 robot, researched and completed a project about an animal.

With a range of experiences and skills, everyone on the Robotics Stars 3.0 team contributed and worked together on the three parts of the tournament. Veteran Candace Spruill is one of the Robotic Stars 3.0 team members who has participated in FLL for four years straight. A few new additions to the team including fourth graders Kori Johnson and Terrance Mathews, experienced their first FLL Tournament. Both Kori and Terrance were nervous about their First Tournament. But they were happy to have the opportunity to practice and work alongside seasoned Robotics Stars 3.0 members such as Candace.  They learned many valuable skills such as persistence, developed their knowledge and problem solving skills while preparing for the tournament and working together as a team.

All FLL teams were required to choose and solve a real-world question in the project.  The Robotics Stars 3.0 selected the Rhino as our Animal Ally. Rhinos are endangered and need our help!   Did you know they are killed daily?  To learn more go to

Chamberlain Robotics Stars 3.0 adopted a family of Rhinos through WWF (World Wildlife Foundation). We also interviewed two companies: WWF and another one working to save the Rhinos to learn more about how we can help to change an animal’s life. The Robotics Stars 3.0 Team learned that Rhinos are almost extinct because poachers want to take their horns and they try each day. At the tournament we did a project presentation about our solution to stop the poaching. The Chamberlain Robotics Stars 3.0 learned a lot from this project and still work with a foundation to stop poaching.

FIrst Lego League is an international competition for students ages 9-14. To participate in any FLL tournament each team completes three parts: The Project, Core Values and The Robot Game.  At the DC/VA FLL Tournament on November 19th, each team was given a different schedule. Each team was assigned a room and given a time where they would be judged on their robot design, core values skills and project. Each group was assigned three Robot Game Times where they were to complete as many missions as possible in 2.5 minutes using their robot.   Everything was fun because you can watch all the other teams’ robots and the competition. I learned that working as a team is important because it helps to achieve a shared vision and goal.

At the end of the day, all teams received a ribbon for competing and the top honors and highest overall score was announced. Even though a team from Virginia won all three categories overall, we did our best, stayed positive and we worked as a team.

It was nice to see many of the Robotics Stars 3.0 parents to support us. We worked hard and did our best. From this experience, the team learned many things including how robots and technology can be used to help save animals lives and stop wildlife crime.  

Areeja Smith is a seventh grade scholar, Terrance Matthews and Kori Johnson are fourth grade scholars at Friendship Chamberlain Academy.