Killeen Independent School District robotics teams are preparing to compete at the regional level of FIRST Lego League competition.

In qualifying rounds, the Meadows Elementary School robotics team finished first in product presentation, West Ward Elementary School finished first in robot design, and Smith Middle School won first place in core values.

All three won in the Central Texas Qualifier event to move on to the second level of competition Saturday at Connally High School. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

At Meadows, robotics team members said the qualifying competition was exciting and they were working after school to make adjustments to score more points in the next level of competition.

“It was exciting and nerve racking at the same time,” said fifth-grader Melody Paredes, the Meadows’ captain.

The scene was similar after school at West Ward Elementary, where team members gathered to program their robot, work on a research project and perfect a cheer teaching about tornado safety.

In this year’s FIRST game, the required research project and the robotics challenges revolve around natural disasters.

The Meadows team’s product idea was a bracelet with heat sensor and GPS to help locate victims of a disaster. The bracelet would come with a personal ID to protect the wearer from unwanted followers. There also would be a pet version.

West Ward team members demonstrated their tornado safety cheer and explained a product that would act as a portable, deployable tornado shell.

The West Ward team, called the Rumble Cats, decided the most durable tornado shelter would be made of Vectran, the material used for airbags on the Mars Rover.

Students researched tornadoes and contacted a meteorologist. That led them to discard their original idea, a weather-shifting laser that would zap potential twisters, but also dry up much-needed rain.

Smith’s team came up with a project designed to decrease forest fires. Their research showed that 90 percent of fires are caused by human behavior, many through cigarettes, fireworks and campfires.

Their project included lighting trails with glow sticks and equipping campgrounds with fire extinguishers and added signage.

The Smith team won for core values, mainly based on their strong teamwork, sponsors Michael Sleeth and Tanya Coppock said.

“These students problem solve really well,” Coppock said. She said the team members arrive after school excited to work on their project and require little guidance from the adults.

West Ward robotics sponsor Alexis Sommers credited her team’s diligence for coming away with the top award for robot design to advance to the next level of competition.

“They worked really hard and their perseverance paid off with a first place award,” she said. “The judges thought that the team strategy for mission completion was very good and that their knowledge illustrated engineering excellence.”

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