Aspiring Robotics Builders Visit Noble Studios

Lego Robotics students

Led by coach Jarrod Lopiccolo, a group of fifth-grade Lego Robotics competitors from Fritsch Elementary recently took a tour of Noble Studios to learn about communication in the workplace.

During the tour of Noble’s Reno headquarters, the 10 students listened to presentations from Noble Creative Director Tim Miley and Lead Developer Sterling Hamilton and others who kept the presentation engaging with references to Katy Perry and Minecraft.

The Fritsch team is fresh off of a win in the Core Values portion of the Northern Nevada FIRST Lego League Championship Tournament in January at UNR. The Core Value Competition theme this year was Communication, and it saw the group, known as the “Lego Survivors,” pitted against much older students, including eighth graders.

On first glimpse, Lego Robotics might seem to be all about playing with Legos and learning to construct them into mechanical creations that perform specific tasks. Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see that the program’s aim is to instill a set of values into these budding young engineers, creatives and project managers.

According to the FIRST Lego League site, participants learn that competition and mutual gain “are not separate goals, and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork.”

With their first project, the Fritsch group built a physical representation of a search engine, complete with spinning wheels and hidden keys which the robots could unlock and grab. Lopiccolo said the project better helped the kids understand abstract concepts such as reverse engineering, crowd sourcing and the cloud.

The group then turned its attention to cartoon animation; specifically, building a better tablet app for animators. For research, the group interviewed the film crew at Carson City’s Brewery Arts Center, where they learned about green screens and the use of 24 frames per second in videography. With the aid of stop-motion photography, the group turned its creations into animated flipbooks.

“They really thought it out,” Lopiccolo said. “They looked at the costs such as marketing and staff. It really came to life for them.”

Throughout the various project phases, the individual teams were judged and critiqued. The feedback shed light on the group’s areas of strengths and weaknesses and helped direct its strategy.

“Going into the final tournament, we realized we didn’t have enough points to win the robotic competition because we were up against a lot of older kids, so we focused on the Core Values portion,” Lopicccolo said.

In the end, it shook out to 25 teams, including the young builders from Fritsch.

Jarrod and Season, co-founders of Noble Studios, personally donated three laptops to each of the teams at Fritsch. Prior to their involvement with Lego Robotics, Season sat on the Carson City School District board and was part of a group that was instrumental in getting laptops and tablets into the hands of each area student.

In the end, Lopiccolo said, it was the teamwork and communication skills the group learned that made the project so valuable.

“We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers,” Lopiccolo said. “The end goal is to get the kids to work together and find their strengths weaknesses as a team. That’s exactly what they did with this project.”