Catlin Gabel Teams Take Home Three Awards at FIRST LEGO League Oregon Robotics Tournament

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Press Release

Jan 20, 2004

For Immediate Release

Contact: Becky Kessler

503-297-1894, ext. 301

Catlin Gabel Teams Take Home Three Awards at FIRST LEGO League Oregon Robotics Tournament

Robotics program focuses on finding the fun in science, engineering, and software design.

(Portland, Oregon)- Three robotics teams represented Catlin Gabel at the FIRST

LEGO League Oregon Robotics Tournament on January 17, at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. The 77 best teams in Oregon competed in categories ranging from robot engineering and performance to research and presentation skills.

For the third year in a row, Catlin Gabel teams brought home more awards than any other organization in Oregon. Within the 12 award categories, Catlin Gabel won:

  • 1st Place, Innovative Design was earned by the 6th grade team, the Catlin Gabel Challengers, for most creative design or original approach to solving the challenge missions.
  • 1st Place, Creative Presentation went to the 6th grade team, the Catlin Gabel Craters, for their presentation of their motorized model of a future robotic mission to the canyons of Mars.
  • 2nd Place, Program Design was earned by the 7th grade team, the Catlin Gabel Innovators, for their software programs, which exhibited good design, documentation, and use of sensors to determine the robots actions.

The Catlin Gabel School offers LEGO Robotics as an after-school activity for interested 5th through 8th graders. “While the focus of the program is on learning about software and engineering,” says Dale Yocum, a Catlin Gabel parent volunteer and engineer who coaches the teams, “the validation of winning an award always feels good.”

For the past three years, the Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program (ORTOP) has coordinated tournaments where children ages 9-14 experience the fun and rewards of engineering by programming robots to perform a series of specified tasks. Children work in teams using LEGO parts, sensors and a small computer to design, construct and program a working robot. They develop programs for the robot’s computer on a PC or Mac and beam them into the robot to be stored and executed. Some of these programs are quite sophisticated, allowing the robots to follow walls, sense obstacles, optically follow lines, and count wheel rotations, among other tasks. The theme of this year’s competitions is Mission Mars, linking the students’ robotics work with that of NASA scientists. During the competition, robots are programmed to complete specific tasks like retrieving ice cores, cleaning solar collectors, and building housing.

Says Yocum, "This is the best opportunity weve found for middle schoolers to see what its like to be on a large engineering project. They can try their hands at software and mechanical engineering, project management, and background research. They really get to experience the joys and challenges of working in a team, just like engineers in the real world." Catlin Gabel seventh-grader Andrew Cannard echoes this sentiment, emphasizing the lessons of teamwork: “robotics is easier to do as a group, because each member is responsible for their own part.”

The robotics project makes the challenges of science and engineering fun. Says sixth grader Andy Vickory, “Essentially, we’re playing with Legos! I like trying to figure out how to make a robot do what it’s supposed to do with the fewest pieces possible.”

The Catlin Gabel School is an independent, co-educational day school, dedicated to student individuality, academic excellence, multiculturalism and life-long learning. The school’s dynamic pre-kindergarten through twelfth-grade curriculum combines academics with arts, physical education and a strong sense of community service. Catlin Gabel is independently governed by a Board of Trustees and is not supported by tax or church monies. For more information, please visit

The Oregon Robotics and Outreach Program (ORTOP) is committed to increasing the number of Oregon and Southwest Washington students pursuing engineering degrees and entering high-tech careers. A national robotics tournament - FIRST LEGO League - sponsored by LEGO® and the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology organization (FIRST), is the vehicle ORTOP has chosen to support as a fun, challenging introduction to technology. For more information, please visit and