Duncan Elementary School sixth grader Will Ashbreck and fifth grader John Walters compete at ThunderQuest at Henry Ford II High School Nov. 16.

Duncan Elementary School sixth grader Will Ashbreck and fifth grader John Walters compete at ThunderQuest at Henry Ford II High School Nov. 16.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


UCS teams thrive at ThunderQuest

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published November 22, 2019

STERLING HEIGHTS — Young fans of robotics throughout the region took Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights by storm when ThunderQuest returned Nov. 16.

School officials call ThunderQuest the state’s largest regional FIRST Lego League robotics tournament. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

According to Utica Community Schools officials, this year about 70 teams from local junior high and elementary schools took part in ThunderQuest, and UCS schools represented 14 of them. UCS high school robotics students helped run the tournament.

Among other things, participating FIRST Lego Robotics teams, composed of kids ages 9-14, had to build and program a Lego robot to perform functions to earn points on a playing field.

According to UCS spokesman Tim McAvoy, ThunderQuest’s FIRST Lego League grand champions included the first-place Beck Elementary BBD Bots and the second-place Duncan Thunder Monkeys.

Eight other UCS teams earned first place within other categories, including design, robot performance and team spirit, McAvoy said. And out of the nine teams that made the cut to compete in a December state-level tournament, five belong to UCS, he said.

In a statement, UCS Superintendent Christine Johns praised the role ThunderQuest has in her school district. She said it has become a “hotbed for robotics education.”

“ThunderQuest involves our entire community in developing skills in our students that will be critical to their future, including coding, teamwork and problem solving,” she said.

School officials said the event featured FIRST Lego League Jr. activities for children ages 6-10 to instill a love for science, technology, engineering and math. The Browning Elementary Robotic Wreckers took first place for the Junior League Tournament Innovation Award, according to UCS.

UCS fourth grader Naliyah Reeves, who is part of the Browning Wreckers team, explained in an email what it’s like to compete in a robotics tournament.

“This is serious business,” she said. “You need to understand coding because you have coding and technology in games and the internet.”

The FIRST Tech Challenge at ThunderQuest was designed to prepare older kids for high school robotics by getting them used to teamwork and Java-based programming, the school district added.

Find out more about the FIRST Lego League by visiting www.firstlegoleague.org. Learn more about Utica Community Schools by visiting www.uticak12.org or by calling (586) 797-1000.