The LEGO Lassies, a team of sixth-grade girls from Kirkland, Wash., just keep racking up wins in FIRST Washington robotics competitions, and now they’re headed to Houston to compete in the 2019 world championship event.
The Lassies — Shreya Jaisingh, Hadley Cole, Cate Harrington, Willow Cook, KJ Bradley and Ayuka Sakaki — won the FIRST Lego League Western Washington State Championship on Sunday at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. There were 32 teams competing — the top qualifiers from a field of about 500.
They will now join more than 30,000 students representing over 1,400 teams from over 70 countries in Texas from April 17 to 20.
The latest achievement comes just a couple weeks after the LEGO Lassies joined 24 teams at the inaugural GeekWire Robotics Cup as part of the GeekWire Bash in Seattle. The team bested the field by scoring the most points during the “Into Orbit”-themed event.
FIRST Washington inspires young people through mentor-based robotics programs to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers, and at various grade levels kids compete in tournaments throughout the school year.
Scott Bradley, a former director of clinical information systems at the University of Washington, started the LEGO Lassies with his granddaughter and two of her friends three years ago and serves as coach.
Bradley said the LEGO Lassies invested no less than five hours per week since the beginning of the school year to build and program their autonomous robot to solve complex missions. The girls also had to research and solve a real-world problem that humans face during long-duration space travel.
Their robot, Lassie 2.0, is built and coded by the team to tackle 15 missions on a space-themed course.
The LEGO Lassies won the First Place Performance award for the highest points in the robot missions and the First Place Robot Design award at the North Seattle Qualifier at Shoreline Community College in early December, according to a news release.
In January, the LEGO Lassies won the First Place Performance award at the Seattle Semifinals held at Amazon’s Doppler building. They also were awarded the First Place Innovative Solution trophy for their research project.
At the GeekWire Bash on March 7, the team was part of a spirited competition featuring 200 students from across Washington state. It’s evident that being introduced to robotics and STEM at such a young age is paying off for the kids.
“They are definitely hooked,” Bradley told GeekWire on Tuesday. “One of my students, Willow, on her own, wrote a PID (proportional-integral-derivative control algorithm) line follower for her school science fair project in fourth grade, and a program to make a robot go perfectly straight using a gyroscope for her fifth grade science fair project. This year she wrote, ‘Robotics is fun to us because in our minds it’s not about winning, but having fun and trying our best.’ They all believe what they discover is more important than what they win — but winning is awesome.”
Bradley said the Lassies are very excited for the trip to Houston, and if they’re anything like him they’re probably not sleeping much in anticipation.
“They are looking forward to flying together, swimming in the hotel pool, and experiencing the event,” he said. “They want to meet a team from another country that is like them and with which they can Skype next season. We have already connected with a team from Florida.
“The LEGO Lassies are of course hoping to win something, but not expecting it,” Bradley added. “There are a lot of amazing teams in the world.”