We are S.H.I.E.L.D. (The Strategic Headquarters of Innovative Engineering and Limitless Design), a FIRST LEGO League team from Heritage Christian School in Brookfield, WI.  Our team was originally formed five seasons ago when the original members of the team were in 4th grade.  Our team has a history of a high focus on FLL.  We each spend hundreds of hours each year working on the various aspects of the program or doing events and fund-raisers in the off-season.  We enjoy making our projects real.  We’ve had fun building a submarine, designing a replacement prosthetic arm and making a working bio-gravitational water filtration system in years past.

For the past few seasons before this year our team was all boys, but we recruited to have more girls in our program this year and had 3 girls join our team.  The balance in perspective from our new team members really helped strengthen and balance our skills, help the team gain new insights into the problems we solve and see new ways of looking at the problems we face.

For this year’s Nature’s Fury season we wanted to do something that could help people who couldn’t help themselves.  We decided to focus on Haiti, which is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  When hurricanes strike, Haitians have no options to escape like we do in the U.S.  Sadly, they also struggle with education.  Less than 50% of Haitian children are able to go to school.  Our solution is a specially designed school building that is capable of withstanding the high wind forces of a hurricane.  Most of the time it serves as a school, but when nature’s fury strikes, it becomes a safe place to survive the storm.  We incorporated our water filter from Food Factor into this design, too!

This year we were able to start with the new Mindstorms EV3 system for our robot design.  Our goal was to fully test it out by building the ‘world’s best portable drive library’.  We started early and worked hard and were able to do amazing things with the new EV3 system.  We designed the drive library software so we could specify moves in inches and robot degrees and then wrote our missions using a compass and tape measure.  We added a gyro sensor that could be turned on for all movement to correct the robot heading.  We proved out our drive library on our competition robot and then ported the software to another team’s robots by doing nothing more than changing some constants and variables in the initialization blocks of our program!

This year our team raised money to sponsor a new FLL team and we mentored that team.  We also helped as mentors in our thriving JFLL program.  To spread the STEM message further in our school community we sponsored our school’s Science Fair, doing a dinner and sponsoring the prizes for the event and we held a button fund-raiser with proceeds going to the science department for things they needed to help with classes.

This year we competed at the Sunday regional at Marquette High School.  We were able to do very well, earning the 2nd highest score for the robot, receiving nominations for eight of the ten awards, winning the Champions Award and also an invitation to the state tournament.  At state, we also did very well, winning the 2nd place robot performance award, receiving nominations for 4 awards and winning the state Championship!

This year over 25,000 teams will participate in FLL.  Just 80 will earn a chance to compete for the World Champion title at the FLL World Festival.  We are excited to be one of those 80 teams!  Check out our website at www.patriotrobotics.org to see how we progress between now and late April and then tune into NASA web channels the week of the World Championships and look for S.H.I.E.L.D. on the competition floor of the Edward Jones Dome!

FLL is about more than what we win.  It is about who we become and what difference we can make in the lives of people in our communities.  Our goals for the World Festival are high.  But more than that, we hope we can use this opportunity to bring more awareness to the situation in Haiti.  Our long term goal is to see our solution actually constructed with stretch goals to go to Haiti to help build it and to bring an FLL camp to Haiti while we are there.