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Sandy Journal

Beehive Academy Robotics wins state, qualifies for international competition

Mar 27, 2017 04:10PM ● By Julie Slama

Beehive Robotics competes at the state First Lego League robotics tournament where they captured the robot performance title and repeated as state champions. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Winning a state championship in any activity isn’t easy and defending the title can even be harder, but Beehive Academy’s Beehive Robotics team did just that.
“We worked hard to get better,” said eighth-grader and returning team member Kaden Gordon.
Beehive Robotics Assistant Coach Laurie Mauer estimates she spent at least 34 hours per week advising the team during the six weeks before the state competition, and even more since the theme and missions were announced in the late August.
“Some of the kids were at it longer than me and wanted to be at the top of their game,” she said.
For their efforts, the team not only received the Champion’s Award at Utah’s Northern State Championship Tournament at Weber State University on Feb. 11, but they also received the invitation to compete at the world championships April 19 through April 22 in Houston.
Last year, the team competed in St. Louis and although they weren’t the top team, they were competitive. They finished 21st in the Robot Games, where they compete in at least three 150-second matches and their highest score counts.  
This year at state, Beehive Robotics team won the Robot Performance trophy for earning the most points by completing the most predetermined missions.
First Lego League isn’t just about building a Lego robot and programming it to complete missions; the competitions also allow students from ages 9–14 to compete in core values where “what we learn is more important than what we win,” an innovative project and presentation, as well as the robot design and performance. Through the competition, students apply real-world math and science concepts, research challenges, and learn critical thinking, team-building and presentation skills while having fun competing in tournaments.
This year about 32,000 teams worldwide, with more than 300 teams across Utah, competed in the state-qualifying tournaments and both a northern and southern state championship.
The Beehives Robotics team includes Kaden and his eighth-grade teammates Austin Grant, Zack Nelson, Sam Gwynn, Gaireth Castleton and Moises Molina; seventh-grader Asim Kablan and ninth-grader Trinity Mauer, along with coaches Mauer and Annie Drennan. Together they are raising $15,000 for the international competition through fundraising events and a GoFundMe site,, as well as revisiting all components of their competition.
Tying their project to the First Legos theme of “Animal Allies,” the team created the “Bee Safe” application after contacting several nurseries, Utah State University bee lab, Wasatch Beekeepers Association and others to learn that a lot of Varroa mites are attacking honey bees, weakening the bees and causing widespread wing virus that can lead to the death of a honeybee colony. The app, which the team members filed for a patent, identifies which plants are safe or harmful to the spreading of the Varroa mites.
“Many of the plants, people plant in their gardens, so they are unaware of the harmful effects on the bee population,” Asim said. “Some places are now indicating which ones are bee friendly, but with the app, all that is needed is to scan the barcode of the plant for the information at any nursery.”
The application is free to download on Android phones and the team is currently working to get it available for iPhones. They already shared this information with those on Capitol Hill during Charter Day on the Hill and at the Utah STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Expo as well as through First Lego League, television news programs and others.
Moises said their project also ties into their core values.
“We chose bees because it’s not only our school mascot and part of our school name, but it also illustrates our ability to work together,” he said.
Drennan has seen much growth in the team this year.
“We’ve done a lot of team-building activities that just center on the students working together, whether it’s all of them sitting on one chair or building a tall tower,” she said. “That has paid off where they all are speaking up, having a voice and are listening to one another to problem-solve.”
Sam said he joined the team to accomplish great things.
“I was a little uncertain at first, but I’ve gotten more confident and we’ve done a bunch of cool stuff,” he said. “We’ve learned patience and teamwork to come up with ideas.”
One of those was a robot attachment Sam created with the advice of his teammates and his father that was unique to the competition and able to consistently accomplish several missions.
“Together, we’re able to come up with better ideas than just any one of us,” Sam said.
Those ideas the team often shared with other teams instead of keeping it to themselves.
“If one of these kids on any of the teams makes a breakthrough in cancer, we’d want them to share it with everyone so they all can work on it. This is a good team better. Our team is made of great kids who are capable of solving problems, so who knows what they’re capable of doing,” Mauer said.
Drennan said that already many of the students are thinking about careers in the STEM field and have gained engineering experience.
“This is their experience and they brainstorm and share ideas together. All I do is create an environment where kids want to be there, keep them calm, provide snacks and be their cheerleader,” said Drennan, who will now take her third team to the international competition.
Even with looking forward to the world competition, Moises said his favorite part isn’t the competition, but his teammates.
“The best part is working together as a team, learning and having fun,” he said.
Two other Sandy teams received state awards. Plan B, also from Beehive Academy, won the Teamwork Award, which recognizes “a team that is able to accomplish more together than they could as individuals through shared goals, strong communication, effective problem solving and excellent time management.” The team is composed of sixth-graders Curtis Bock, Mohammed Hussain and Nicholas Jacob; seventh-graders Becket Harris, Xidis Minson, Betut Oguz and Aiden Pasinsky; eighth-grader Logan Nester; and coaches Ed Eliason and Renae Mendenhall.
Bionic Porcupines 2.0 was awarded the State Innovative Solution Award that recognizes “a team’s solution that is exceptionally well-considered and creative, with good potential to solve the problem researched.” The team, with sixth-graders Allie Drennan and Timothy Holt of Beehive Academy; and sixth-graders Abigail Slama-Catron and Eric Snaufer of Midvale Middle School, along with their coaches Ben Holt and Mark Snaufer, created and filed a patent for an innovative air dancer that reduces bird migration and nesting at airports to reduce bird strikes. The team was the only Utah team to receive an invitation to submit their project innovative solution for the First Lego League Global Innovation Award.