Robo teams go wild with awards

The southern Kenai Peninsula did themselves proud at the First Lego League competition at Skyview Middle School in Soldotna on Saturday.

The West Homer Elementary School Brick Heads won best robot design and the WHES Squirrels in Space were in first place for the robot missions going into round three, but were beat in the last round by another Homer team, Your Mama’s Llamas, a combination of former WHES students coached by Arthur Kettle and Paul Rauch: Homer High School freshmen Ben Kettle and Doug Dean, Homer Middle School student Ali McCarron; and home-school student Caleb Rauch.

Your Mama’s Llamas went on to win awards for robot performance and the champions award that recognizes the team’s research project, core values-teamwork, and robot mission. The team’s performance in the regional competition in Soldotna now advances them to the Anchorage Invitational on Jan. 17. 

“This is their fifth year,” said Kettle of the team that has, for the most part, been together since elementary school.

“This isn’t all the original people, but three of them have been on it all the way through.”

Two robotics teams from McNeil Canyon Elementary School also participated in the event. The Atomic Legos got first place in the project division. The team consisted of  Tanner Reid, Jackson Campbell, Ella Blanton-Yourkowski, Liam James and Kayden Crosby. The Medieval Monkeys got first place in the core values division. The team consisted of  Katelyn Engebretsen, Cadence Campbell, Gabe LeBlanc, Seamus Donovan, Payton Tobin and Sam Banks.

This year’s competition theme was “world class challenge,” and focused on learning styles and methods and how individuals learn best. Your Mama’s Llamas winning project involved the design of a video game.

“Since they designed it, no one else knew how to do it before they tried it. So, they used three different learning styles to teach people how to play it: a written guide, a teacher approach and trial and error,” said Coach Kettle.

“They made a hypothesis that the teacher approach would be the best way and then they tested samples in the different categories.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at