Spirited Spartan guest demo FLL team headed to Houston Holmen-based team in need of financial support to make trip of a lifetime


For their Week O scrimmage event, on the weekend of February 17th and 18th, the Sparta Robotans reached out to the Holmen community based First Lego League (FLL) team, NOAm, to come and provide demonstrations on what FLL involves, and what their capabilities are. According to the official website for FIRST® LEGO® League, the organization introduces science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to children ages 4 to 16, through fun, exciting hands-on learning. Participants gain real-world problem-solving experience through a guided, global robotics program.

On Sunday, February 18th, the Herald had a chance to glean information and knowledge from the enthusiastic and spirited members of NOAm. There was one topic discussed that seemed to strengthen their energy levels to a point of combustion, and that was the fact that they are on their way to Houston, for the FLL Championship competition, which is an international event that will culminate the season and the top-tier teams, from around the globe — a memory marker for the youth and top lifetime frontrunner for "Best Weekend Ever." But they are in need of some financial assistance.

Inception of NOAm

The first vapors of NOAm's manifestation came from Peggy Maricle, when she was searching to see if there were any robotics FLL programs in the Holmen area, after her son had expressed interest in the field. While she could not find anyone that had taken up the program, Peggy had many community members saying, "If you start one, we would be more than happy to join." So, she started one in, in 2016.

Peggy's daughter, Cecelia, told the Herald, "I joined a year later, and my sister, Georgia, joined when she was old enough."

The Name

The Holmen group has an acronym that serves as their team's name: NOAm. It was presented on a big banner, above their Lego display, at the Sparta Robotan Week O Scrimmage. The letters that spell out NOAm are in squares, like you would see in the Periodic Table. The square-around-a-letter-and-number format are the three elements that make up the title of their team: N7 - for Nitrogen; 08 - for Oxygen; and Am95 - for Americium. Broken down to what the acronym stands for: Nerds On A Mission.

Current Members Demonstrating in Sparta

When the Herald approached for an interview, Cecelia Maricle - a 6-year member, took over as the informative collective voice for NOAm. "NOAm is a community-based team and has been around for eight years," Cecelia started out. "We meet twice a week, August to around January, usually, but this year we are continuing into April because we made it to Worlds [competition], which is the highest possible honor."

The other members at the Sparta demonstration, for NOAm, included Teemu Keinanen - a 4-year member, Somerled Myers - 2 years, Georgia Maricle - 3 years, Mikko Keinanen - 3 years, and Wyatt Linder - 5 years.

Monies Needed for Experience of a Lifetime

The group needs a total of $10,000 in order to be able to take the adventure of a lifetime, down to Houston, Texas, where the international competition is being held. "We are hoping to raise the money by the end of March, so that we can get our names on our shirts," Cecelia informed the Herald. At the time of this article, the group had already raised the lion's share of their goal, but they still need that last extra push of around $3,000. Their GoFund me page can be reached at https://www.gofundme.com/f/Nerds-On-A-Mission-FLL-WORLDS

Coach Peggy Maricle, mother of Cecelia and Georgia, said of the FLL program she was responsible for starting, "You get to have an amazing outreach and impact on your community in supporting the next generation of STEM. I am proud of their efforts and enthusiasm. They really love what they are doing, and they have formed strong friendships along the way. They are thrilled to be going to Houston, for the experience of meeting other kids that do what they do, from around the world."

When pressed on what they are looking forward to when they head to Houston, the members of NOAm replied with answers that all swirled within the realms of excitement, adventure and education. "We are really excited to meet a bunch of different teams from around the world and find out how they approach FLL," Wyatt Myers told the Herald.

"We will get to network with many other teams, including not just other FLL teams, but also FTC [First Tech Challenge] and FRC [First Robotic Competition, like the Sparta Robotans], so we get to learn more about what they are doing as well," said Cecelia Maricle.

"It will be so much fun, and we will learn so much," said Teemu Keinanen.

Punching Their Ticket to the Championship

The very interesting aspect of FLL is that everything for the competition is pre-coded. There are actually no hands­on actions allowed, not even it the robot gets hung-up on debris on the competition board. So, in addition to aiming for a flawlessly programmed robot, strong efforts and diligence must be placed on a smooth and unencumbering competition arena, as well — it must be the perfect storm.

"This is all autonomous, which means that we are not using a remote control at all," said Cecelia. "There are 15 missions on the table, including all the characters and the orange mini figures. The mission is to complete as many of these as we can, in 2 minutes and 30 seconds."

There were several different movements that NOAm had programmed for their demonstration at Sparta's Week 0 competition, and they gave the Herald a full demonstration. "Here, the robot picks up these figures and drops them off at a specific destination," explained NOAm's team member, Mikko Keinanen. Indeed, the robot picked up several figures and dropped them off at specified locations, making the short ride seem uber flawless.

It takes the NOAm team around three weeks to complete their programming for their events, a time period that they say is record breaking. "We spend two hours a meeting and hold a total of six meetings," Cecelia Maricle told the Herald. "An extra two meetings are needed to finesse and perfect the competition movements."

The special skill needed, according to Cecelia Maricle, is a willingness to learn. "A calculator also helps," quipped Somerled Myers.

Naming the Robots

NOAm’s primary robot's name is Gandolph the White. "This year we used a lot of the Lord of the Rings names for everything," Georgia Maricle told the Herald. "We also have a twin robot called Gandolph the Gray, who is a backup robot."

The members of NOAm informed the Herald that a team does not need a backup robot, but they decided to have one this year. "It helps to have a backup, in case something goes wrong, like a motor failure," explained Cecelia. "But for the most part, we will not change out the entire robot. Usually, we just exchange the parts."

Colors, Dimensions and Attachments

The effort, from the robot to the programming and the Lego construction to full competition board finish, is 100 percent a team effort. The height limit for the competition set construction is a foot or under, and you get more points in the competition if you can get all your attachments for the robot in one specified area.

The attachments, or the moving parts, are color coded. There are five total. On the robot there is a color sensor, which picks up on the red, the green the blue, or yellow, indicating to the robot what program it will run. "If we put the red attachment on, it reads red and will run the red route," said Teemu Keinanen.

3-D Kazoos and Core Values

In FLL, there is not only the robot, teamwork, and competition aspect, but there is project and core values. The theme changes each year, and this year's theme is Masterpiece. With the theme comes a challenge to solve a real-world problem. "We were told that we needed to share our hobbies, and one of our favorite hobbies is the kazoo," stated Cecelia. "We wanted to be able to share what we love. It was after we decided to go with the kazoo that we learned that National Lego Day and National Kazoo day are on the same day. That day combines two of our strong loves."

When NOAm set out on the effort, they saw that most all kazoos were made from hard plastics, made from bad chemicals. "So, we decided to make them out of a bioplastic," said Wyatt Meyer. "We went with a 3D printer and these are our best prototypes." At that point, all NOAm members pulled out their biodegradable kazoos, some demonstrating the very recognizable kazoo sound.

"On January 28th, we held a cool event at our local library where we had people make their own kazoos as well," Cecelia added.

Needed Now: A Boost to Houston

NOAm needs to close the $2,400 gap that currently stands as the only speedbump standing in their way to the Houston international championship. Again, their GoFund me page can be reached at https://www.gofundme.com/f/Nerds-On­A-Mission-FLL-WORLDS or follow the QR code provided. The Herald wishes the best of luck to NOAm. May the force be with you.

Benny Mailman, Finding 42, NOAM, Noam, Holmen, robotics, Monroe County Herald, world robotic championships, Houston holmen robotic,


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