Homeschooled robotics team takes ‘pet project’ to state

Homeschooled robotics team takes ‘pet project’ to state
The Crazy Cat Ladies Lego robotics team took first place at the Northeast Florida regional competition: Sydney Woods, Emily Puckett, Lana Gerstenberger, Kaitlyn Jenkins, Gigi Gerstenberger, Brooke Turner

Taking first place in the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Northeast Florida regional competition Jan. 28 means more than advancing to the state meet on May 6 for Avondale resident Emily Puckett.

Prior to the state competition, the all-girl Lego robotics team will compete in the FIRST World Festival Championship in Houston, Texas, April 19-22.

Puckett’s team, Crazy Cat Ladies, is coached by Lolita and Jason Gerstenberger, who started it three years ago; this is Puckett’s second year on the team. The six Crazy Cat Ladies are homeschooled in the 6th and 7th grades, and live in different parts of Jacksonville.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is the organization which runs Lego robotics competitions of all levels around the world. Locally, FLL teams are in most of the schools, thanks to the persistent work of Mark McCombs of Renaissance Group, according to Puckett’s mother, Heather.

“A team is given a real-world problem, creates a solution, and develops a project around their solution,” said Heather. “This year’s theme was to create or improve upon an interaction between animals and humans such that the lives of both are improved.”

The Crazy Cat Ladies’ project, Friendly Pets-Happy People, is an app that brings together bored house pets with pet-less residents in assisted living communities.

“It’s different from pet-therapy visits in that the people get to be in control of which pets they want a visit from, and when and how often the pet visit is,” said Emily, who stated her team spent many hours on the project, the robot design and the programs.

Each robotics team begins with an EV3 robot base (called a brick), and uses Lego pieces to create various attachments, all connected to sensors and motors which carry out specific tasks. The teams work to create the best tools and programming to have the robot carry out the most tasks in the least amount of time. 

“This has been an exciting and nerve-wracking experience. Getting the robot to be really precise takes so much work!” Emily said. “Competition day is long and stressful but so much fun! I love being part of this team with such great friends. I like that our project is for service in the community.”

By Kate A. Hallock
Resident Community News

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