• Winterhaven team wins award for innovation at state LEGO championship

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     Team picture of The Amazing Walrii

    The Amazing Walri competed in the Intel Oregon FIRST LEGO League State Championships held recently at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

    Anyone familiar with close-in Southeast Portland knows the train crossing at SE 11th Avenue, near Division Street. A group of students from Winterhaven K-8 School tackled the traffic issues caused by stopped freight trains there, turning it into a project that earned an award at a state LEGO championship.

    The Amazing Walri, a team of six eighth-graders from Winterhaven, won the Innovation Project Award for Research at the Intel Oregon FIRST LEGO League State Championships held recently at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. The team’s project, titled “the Crossing Conundrum,” won the honor that “recognizes a team that utilizes diverse resources to formulate an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the problem.”

    Team members are Eli Bates, Calvin Beall, Hunter Boyer, Jenna McComas, Frances Springgate and Korbin Towne. The team was coached by Erinn Bates, JJ Heldmann and Robert Towne.

    The state competition consisted of building and programming a LEGO robot to complete as many missions as possible in 2½ minutes. Also, each team had to identify a problem with a building or public space in its community and design a solution. Each team had to make a 5-minute presentation on the problem.

    The Amazing Walri’s solution consisted of an app to alert drivers when a train is stopped on the tracks, and flashing signs strategically placed on nearby streets to help drivers avoid getting stuck. As they worked on the project, the students shared it with members of the Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood District, along with a former railroad industry consultant and an official from TriMet.

    The team qualified for state by winning the Core Values Award at a December tournament at Catlin Gabel School. At state, the Amazing Walri competed against 57 other teams and finished 18th in the robot game.

    “I’m so proud of those kids,” said Cindi Carrell, coach of the Cleveland High School robotics team, Pigmice.

    The Amazing Walri has a strong relationship with Pigmice, which was established in 2004 and competed at the World Robotics Championships last year. Many Pigmice members attended Winterhaven, starting as LEGO competitors before moving into robotics. Pigmice members helped mentor the Amazing Walri, and they hosted a practice tournament for several teams to help them prepare for state.