Students from Yuma County recently qualified to participate in the Arizona FLL State Championship Tournament that will be taking place in Phoenix on Saturday.

A total of five teams became eligible to travel to the state contest after placing in the top of the competition at the Yuma County FLL (FIRST LEGO League) Regional Tournament where they were up against almost 20 other area teams.

The Sensational Smarty Suns from Valley Horizon Elementary School were named the first place champions during the competition and the Cobranators from Somerton Middle School earned second place. Other teams that also qualified for the state tournament included the Cobratrons and Technocobras from Somerton Middle School as well as the #CraneRobots from Crane Middle School.

Shara Castro, the FLL coordinator for the local event, said that this is the most teams that Yuma has been able to send to state compared to past years, as they had almost double the amount of teams participating in the regional competition.

The students will be competing at Arizona State University, where there will be almost 600 students in attendance ranging from age nine to 14. There they will vie for invitations to regional, national and international student competitions.

Students will be tested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas as they demonstrate the functionality of the robots that they designed, built and programmed while it competes in missions on a robot game board.

In addition to showing off the capabilities of their robots, the students will also show the judges what they’ve done to meet the challenge of coming up with innovative ways to teach children what they need to know as 21st century learners. The challenge is a part of this year's theme: “FLL World Class: Learning Unleashed.”

Students are also judged on the core values of FLL.

Elizabeth Colton, the coach of the first place winner from Valley Horizon, shared that she was happy to see that all of the hard work that her students put in ended up paying off.

“It was so exciting to see their faces light up when they heard their team name being read as Grand Champions,” said Colton, who is in her third year of coaching FLL teams.

“I was so proud and very honored to have worked with these young ladies. It was awesome to see all these sixth-graders do so well when they were up against so many seventh- and eighth-grade teams. It was really great to see an all-girl team win for something that was STEM.”

She added that her students were very dedicated preparing for the regional competition, as they worked for about a month to build their robot and several more months after that to program it.

“This special group of girls had lot of perseverance, they were passionate about helping other students learn that have disabilities, they were passionate about their project. They were determined to work together as a team even though they had different ideas, they combined these ideas to make some great solutions.”

The state tournament activities will be live streamed for those from the community who are interested in watching the event online. People can visit www.asucreative.com/stream.html to watch the tournament which will be taking place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

People can also visit www.azfll.com for more information about Arizona FIRST LEGO League, which is managed by ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Sarah Womer can be reached at swomer@yumasun.com or 539-6858. Find her on Facebook at Facebook.com/YSSarahWomer or on Twitter at @YSSarahWomer.

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