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Gateway Middle’s robotics team goes far
EVERETT - The Gateway Lego Guardians robotics team recently won the category of Best Mechanical Design at the Washington Lego League Championships in Ellensburg, but for this team, building is their favorite part.

The team, comprised of five eighth grade students and three seventh grade students at Gateway Middle School, won the ticket to state after placing well in both the regionals and state semi-finals in December and January.
The team built their competition robot and was awarded for its innovative design and mechanics.
The magic behind the team’s robot lay in the ingenious teamwork of the boys. First-year club member, Kunal Singla, a seventh grade student, came up with the idea to build a robot that had 4-wheel drive. This proved to be an efficient design for the performance of the robot, since the “tsunami”-themed field at the championship had obstacles the robot needed to climb over. Other team members helped build accessories the robot needed to pick up different objects in the field (think rescue mission), as well as the field construction itself. Some team members handled software development. All parts of the team count.
The Lego Guardians’ robot was unique because it was the only robot with four-wheel-drive on one engine brain.
“These guys are super excited and super talented.” Gateway principal Shelley Petillo said, adding, “It’s probably more like a family than it is a club!”
“They work really hard together and, really, being able to engage kids in this kind of learning activity is really important because it’s real-life experience that makes sense and there’s real-life application to it,” Petillo said. “These guys could keep going to any career doing critical thinking, problem-solving, collaboration ­— these are the 21st century skills in action, right here. It’s really awesome.”
When asked what they wanted to be when they grow up, most of the boys related to technology-driven careers.
Singla said he wanted to go into either artificial intelligence, or be a software engineer.
Neil Lindgren, a seventh grader, said he wants to be a computer programmer or video game designer.
Eighth grade student Dhruvik Parikh said he wants to start his own company and become a billionaire.
Team advisor and coach Brick Baldwin said the boys were phenomenal at state.
“The kids had a very simple robot that could solve six challenges really quick,” Baldwin said. “Some of these kids I’ve had for three years.”
For the journey to state, the team began preparing last August under the guidance of advisors Baldwin and Tom Viloria.
Each season, the First Lego League (FLL) sends out the year’s theme and challenge. This year’s theme was “Nature’s Fury,” which offered seven natural disaster scenarios that teams could develop solution strategies with technology and robotics.
The main three topics the team had to cover with their strategy development were the project, core values, and robotics. All three topics had to be presented to judges at the competitions. Because the team did so well in explaining their three topics as well as had a robot that could perform quickly and efficiently in the field, they won.
“I think all (Everett) middle schools offer courses in robotics now, and that’s been a major change that’s come in with the STEM funds. Trying to help give the kids more opportunity and exposure,” Petillo said. “At the middle level we want to give kids exposure, because some kids have never done anything like this. ... This is where you light the fire. This is how you get engineers, this is how you get kids interested” in science and technology through robotics.
The league championship is an annual competition held by the Washington First Robotics program.
More than 590 teams from this state and from Canada begin the road to state, and only 10 percent of them tactually qualify. The competition’s goal is to inspire students to take an interest in science and technology and to begin considering a career in these fields. Boeing and Microsoft are the event’s major sponsors.
Gateway Middle School has participated in the First Lego League since 2010.
Team roster:
• Omeed Beckman, 8th grader
• Arka Bhattacharya, 8th grade
• Shayne Clark, 7th grade
• Zach Holly, 8th grade
• Isaac Ku, 8th grade
• Neil Lindgren, 7th grade
• Dhruvik Parikh, 8th grade
• Kunal Singla, 7th grade

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