AVON — The Invisionaries isn't your average school-age team.
They compete in the First Lego League in a robotics program designed to get students on the elementary and junior high levels excited about science and technology.
The Invisionaries are coached by Herb Denny. He found out about the FLL through a tournament last year and started a team at the encouragement of fellow parents.
For a team competing in its first season, the Invisionaries are doing quite well. They placed first for project presentation in the Indy South Regional Qualifying Tournament Nov. 17 at Center Grove Middle School North. That's where they also finished second in the robotics game portion. Both qualified the Invisionaries for the Indiana Championship Tournament this Saturday in Fort Wayne, where they'll compete against the state's top 50 teams.
"It was impressive for it being our first year," said Denny's son Will, who is a member of the Invisionaries.
Each competition includes a robotics challenge and a research and development project based on a specific topic.
With the robotics portion, each team gets a Lego set containing more than a thousand parts, which they're responsible for assembling and programming. For now, the Invisionaries are working with a basic model.
"We saw robots at the competition that lay flat or went upside down," said Garrett Fehrman, the team's oldest member. "We saw a lot of weird things."
The robot must navigate a series of modules set up on a big table. There are three rounds of scoring. This season the obstacles are based on the theme "Senior Solutions." They represent various challenges faced by elderly citizens, including balance, strength, and reach. Each round only lasts two and a half minutes.
"To get a lot of points in that amount of time is a challenge," Denny said. "You have to think outside the box to find solutions for some of these."