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OCM BOCES LEGO robot competition draws 21 teams to Cortland


192 students on 21 teams compete at the OCM BOCES
Regional FIRST LEGO competition in Cortland

Jan. 24, 2024

Sixth-grader Donovan Okaru of McGraw loves to write computer code, build robots and solve problems. So joining one of two FIRST LEGO League teams in his district was an obvious choice, even if it meant working for dozens of hours after school to prepare for a recent competition.

“I thought it would be a great new experience for me,” he said.

Judges in striped shirts analyze a round by the Cazenovia 
FIRST LEGO League team called "People of the Peeps"

Turns out, he was right.

Donovan and his teammates enjoyed an exciting day of fun and competition on Jan. 20 during a FiRST LEGO League regional event held at the OCM BOCES Cortlandville Campus.

Twenty-one teams comprised of 192 students competed against each other by building and programming a LEGO robot to navigate as many “missions” as possible on a huge robot game board. Teams were also judged on categories such as core values, robot design and an "innovation project" that focused on arts in the community.

The event was organized by the OCM BOCES Model Schools team under the direction of Coordinator Amy Keesey.

Each FIRST LEGO team had three opportunities to perform on the large auditorium stage while an official referee — a judge wearing the standard black-and-white striped shirt you see in sports matches — watched closely and scribbled on a clipboard. As they competed, OCM BOCES Technology Trainer Dan Hacker emceed the robots' moves like a disc jockey, and a packed auditorium of parents and other fans directed their attention to the stage and two large digital screens set up on either side, similar to watching a concert.

To prepare, students had to work together to research, problem-solve, code and engineer their robot to complete the missions, which included having their robots push, pull and lift various obstacles on the board. They also created an “innovation project” — an invention related to art that solved a problem in the community. Students came up with ideas such as a better theater microphone, a “writing prompt” machine for struggling writers and an app that helps elementary students write music. They presented their projects before a panel of judges, who asked them lots of questions.

A member of the "Cheetahbots" team from East Syracuse
Minoa sports bunny ears and Lego glasses. The bunny ears
were related to the team's innovation project, which focused 
on the idea of creating an immersive museum experience for all
ages centered around Looney Tunes, similar to the existing
immersive experience for the famous impressionist painter
Vincent van Gogh. For a few of their proposed "immersive"
rooms, students brought a diorama of Bugs Bunny's rabbit
hole and explained an idea for a Tweety Bird escape room. 

Friendly competition ruled the day. Teams gathered in a large open area at the Cortlandville Campus to mingle, eat lunch, and practice with their robots on game boards set up on the gray linoleum floor. Organizers called it “the pit.”  From there, they followed a tight schedule that took them to the adjacent auditorium for three competitive rounds. Between each round, students re-tweaked their robots and practiced some more.

One competitor, Sophia Pittsley of Cincinnatus, said meeting fellow robot engineers in the pit was a huge part of the fun.

“It’s just really fun to be able to interact with new people and to build and to be able to get to do code,” she said.

At the end of the day, teams celebrated with a 30-minute dance party on the auditorium stage and an awards ceremony with trophies made of bright yellow LEGOs.

Top Four Teams Advance

Four teams scored high enough to advance to the Finger Lakes Championship Tournament in Buffalo on Feb. 10. They were:

  • Lego Heads (a community team from Liverpool)

  • 20,000 Legos Under the Sea (Cazenovia Central Schools)

  • People of the Peeps (Cazenovia Central Schools)

  • RoboHornets (Fayetteville-Manlius Central Schools)

Other Awards

  • Core Values Award - 20,000 Legos Under the Sea (Cazenovia Central Schools)
  • Robot Design Award - GeneWorx Oughtamation (community team from Rome)

  • Innovation Project Award - People of the Peeps (Cazenovia Central Schools)

  • Robot Performance Award - Lego Heads (community team from Liverpool)

  • Breakthrough Award - The Real Masterbees (Baldwinsville Central Schools)

  • Rising All-Star Award - B’ville Builders (Baldwinsville Central Schools)

  • Motivate Award - Cheetahbots (East Syracuse Minoa Central Schools)

  • Engineering Excellence - RoboHornets (Fayetteville-Manlius Central Schools)

  • Champion’s Award - Lego Heads (community team from Liverpool)

By the Numbers

Here are some statistics from the event:

  • 21 teams with 192 students competed - 19 OCM BOCES component district teams and 2 community-based teams
  • 43 volunteers

  • 31 coaches

  • Districts represented:

    • Baldwinsville - 6 teams

    • Cazenovia - 2 teams

    • Cincinnatus - 1 team

    • Cortland - 1 team

    • East Syracuse Minoa - 5 teams

    • Fayetteville Manlius - 1 team

    • McGraw - 2 teams

    • 2 community teams (one from Liverpool, the other from Rome)

Thank you to all of our competitors, coaches, students, organizers, volunteers, parents and guests for a wonderful day.

Please continue scrolling to see more photos from the event: