Volunteers in Grove offer an unique opportunity to become a junior Lego engineer as part of the FIRST Lego league.

Basically, a smaller version of FRC [First Robotics Team] F.R.O.G. team at Grove High School, which works with 120 pound robots, F.L.L is a smaller version designed to teach the fundamentals of engineering and technology to younger students.

FIRST which is an acronym of “For inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was originally founded in 1998 by Dean Kamen.

The FRC (First Robotics Team) 3160 F.R.O.G. began in 2010 under the direction of GHS teachers Keli Steen and Jeanne Smith, when the pair applied for, and received the FIRST robotics grant from the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

Together, the two programs are designed to allow students with interest in science, programing, robotics and design to explore the field in a fun and competitive environment.

The Pollywog groups were formed in part by Smith, as well as Don Malone, founder of the Grand Lake Area Robotics Education program.

Malone is the owner of Malone’s CNC Machining, which manufactures aircraft parts for the B52 and KC135s. As a sponsor of the program, Malone has donated the entire front of his facility free of charge as a meeting space for the league.

The seven volunteers, which include Capuchine Powell, team leader, and four from Malone’s CNC’s staff, assist the students throughout the entire process from practice to competition.

“It’s vital to the success of all FIRST robotics teams to have mentors to work with the students,” Smith said. “The FROG robotics team would not exist without active mentors from Malone’s CNC Machining.”

The younger group also has assistance from the high school team with volunteers such as Jacob Houck.

“Jacob has been involved in FIRST Robotics at the high school level for four years,” explained Smith. “He has been a build captain and safety captain for the FROG Robotics team and is a team leader for FTC [FIRST Tech Challenge] team #8638 "tadpole”.”

Smith credits Houck with being instrumental in recruiting new members for all levels of the FIRST Robotics.

More about the teams

The group with meets every Friday night for two hours features both a boys and girls team for those students between the fifth and seventh grades. The NERD team or “Next Engineering Robotic Dudes,” for the guys, and Crystal Gears, for the girls.

There is also two groups for younger kids ages 5 to 8 called Pollywog or People of Lego League Wiggling Over Grove. 

Those students are broken into two groups, due to number of participants, with the slogans “we can do it” and “we can do it too.”

This year members of the girls team, coached by Powell, took home a first-place trophy for core values and their ability to work as a team, during the recent state competition in Tulsa.

The Pollywog team brought home a certificate for effort in learning and the Pollywog too team brought home a certificate for team spirit.

For the competition, students design and build their own robots and obstacles using Lego and robotics supplied by F.L.L. what type of things do they build. 

“We were going to use two robots in Tulsa but we couldn’t because of the rules," Abigail McCrary explained. “These robots have touch sensors, arms, large motors, medium motors and a programming brick that allow it to perform a large range of tasks.”

Her teammate, Kaylenn Brawner said the first competition was nerve wracking.

"I lost my voice," she said. 

Alexis Powell, another team member, has participated in the program since the beginning and aspires to become either an astrophysicist or an engineer.

Her favorite thing about the program is the “logic based coding and building.”

This year’s theme is Hydro Dynamics and the students will continue to practice as the year progresses looking forward to taking home another trophy.

Students who take part in the robotics program have a change to earn scholarships and internships through FIRST with companies such as Google and NASA.

The group continues to grow and is looking for donations to expand their selection of equipment. Those interested in joining or volunteering may contact Powell at 918-801-6539.