Homeschoolers Build Robot, Win State Competition

Brandon Gowan, Nate Willoughby, Eric Adams, Isaac Adams, Samuel Larrabee, Quetzal Velasco, Rio Velasco, Ana Keller, Missing from the pic is Andrew GowanBarbara AdamsThe Robot

An amazing group of Anderson County homeschool students not only built their own robot, but also won a state wide competition that qualifies them for the regional tournament in Iowa.

Called the ‘Lectric Legends, the team has been building robots for nine years when Kelli Gowan and Barbara Adams created the group with their homeschooled children.  They originally used LEGOs to create moving robots and compete in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge.

FIRST, a national company that promotes science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, holds various competitions for children of different age groups and capabilities using different things to create robots.  Barbara explained that they entered the LEGO League Challenge because the kids loved LEGOs.

However, as the homeschool group got older, they aged out of the LEGO challenge and moved into the FIRST Tech Challenge.  Barbara said that this particular challenge required the students to create a 25lb robot using computers, metal, and motors to compete in a head to head challenge in an alliance format.

But, their coaches, which include a registered nurse, a biologist, and a financial expert didn’t have the expertise to guide them directly.  With a small amount of guidance from a robotics expert in the beginning of the build, the team took it upon themselves to learn and create. “The kids are pretty much self directed,” Barbara said.

The team used various professional grade computer software programs as well as a 3D printer to create parts for their robot.  With custom programmed Android devices, the robot came to life, directed by software they wrote using the Java programming language.

During the state wide competition which was held at Owensboro Community Technical College, the team competed against teams from around the region.  The robot they created had to perform various tasks, and team members had to present their robot to the judges.  In addition to winning the competition, Eric Adams and Brandon Gowan were nominated for the dean’s list for semi-finalists along with Brandon becoming one of two finalists in Kentucky.

The team will move on to the super regional competition in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they will compete against 76 teams from 14 different states. Brandon will also compete at the the FTC World Championship in St Louis where he will be interviewed for chance to be in the top ten finalists in the country.

Barbara said that the group spends around $2500 a year for supplies and registration fees for the competitions.  The funding is all donated from coaches and those in the community from their GoFundMe Page.  They are looking for local businesses and community members that want to sponsor them so they can compete in the next level of competition.

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