The Posies: Sixth Grade Robotics Team Readies for Competition

The Posies are a team of 6th graders (and one 4th grader) who like to work with robotics. The team formed three years ago in Jenny Hutchison’s 3rd-grade classroom. The young children kept up with the competition as they grew older. They fight hard at tournaments, which is paying off—the team has just made it, their third year in a row, to the First LEGO League Regionals. The now-middle-schoolers work amazingly well as a team and produce awesome roboticsy things.

The Corner’s Grace Busser interviews Ben Botvinick and Naiya Mainigi, members of The Posies.

G: What made you decide to start working with robotics?

N: I was invited to join the team and it sounded exciting. Even though I sort of had an idea of what robotics was, I didn’t really know what it was.

B: I was the one who started the team in 3rd grade. My dad (our coach) and I happened to stumble across a tournament and decided to start a team.

G: How many competitions and tournaments has the team competed in?
N: So far, we have competed in 8 competitions.

G: You said your team just made it to the First LEGO League Regionals, do you think you’ll make it to Nationals?

N: I don’t think we will make it because the competition is very hard and we are competing against people older than us.

B: Although some of the other team members seem to disagree, I think that we have a good chance of making it to the Nationals. We’ve worked very hard on our robot this year.

G: What is the most complicated robot you and your friends have made so far?
N: Well, all of our robots were complicated so we didn’t really have a most complicated.

B: Last year’s robot was able to climb over obstacles without ever touching them. It had an inchworm-like design, letting it move one part of its body off the ground at a time.

G: Have you added any more members since the group started? Are you open to new members?
N: We don’t really want anymore members because we don’t want a big team. We added Ben’s sister, Sarah, in our second year (she is in 4th grade now).
B: Our coach says that he couldn’t take a single more person without the team being completely out of control. He says that he can “barely handle the seven of you as it is”.

G: At what time did you personally realize you were into robotics?
N: When I joined the team.

B: We didn’t know a thing until we started the team. Before that, we just thought it would be fun to try. We never thought we would ever really get into it.

G: Is there a ‘leader’ in the group?
N: Ben’s dad is our coach.

B: There is no leader, and my dad doesn’t do much at all. One of the rules in the tournaments is that the coach can’t contribute to the robot at all.

G: I heard that last year, you won a whole tournament, but another team got the ‘Teamwork Award’ and the other team got an article in Chestnut Hill Local, how exactly do you feel about this?
N: It would have been awesome to be in the CH Local and it made us sort of mad and annoyed that they [CHL] put their local school in the paper instead of us.

B: I have to admit, I was a little upset (okay, maybe more than a little), but then again the local team was the school team and had the energy and resources to be in the paper.

G: Does your team work well together?
N: I think that our team can work together if we try.

B: I think our team works together very well, I know that if we didn’t, we wouldn’t last long as a team and we would lose miserably in the tournaments.

G: Do you ever practice with robotics or take an online course or amounting outside of school (besides the Posies, of course)?
N: I took an online course on computer programming which helped with programming the robot.

B: We figure things out on our own most of the time. But if we have a problem, we’ll go online and see if anyone has any advice.

G: At what time do you think you will reach the level in which you can win at the First LEGO League National competition?
N: I don’t think we will ever reach that level.

B: To be honest, I think that we could make it to the Nationals and maybe have won some kind of award, but we couldn’t win the whole tournament. There are teams out there who have a ton of coaches, unlimited resources, and a lot more experience than us.

G: Did you ever want to quit the team?
N: Not really. The tournaments are really stressful so it’s hard but I’ve never wanted to quit.

B: Never.

G: What do you think the team can improve on?
N: I think that our team could focus a lot more at meetings.

B: There is a lot we have to learn, and we could be more on task. But I think that for our level of experience and the amount of time we practice every week, we are in pretty good shape.

G: Are you ever competing with people a lot older than you? (By at least 2 years)
N: Yes, because you can be up to 14 years old to compete.

B: Yes, the tournaments range from ages 9-14 so we have been competing against freshmen since we were 3rd graders.

G: How important is your team to you?
N: The team is pretty important to me. The whole team puts a lot of dedication into this team, especially our coach.

B: The team is a symbol of motivation to me. When I first saw that robotics tournament with my dad when I was nine, then team was just a dream to me. But when we actually started the team, it showed me that if you are serious enough about it, you can do anything you want.

The team consists of Ben Botvinick, Evan Weiss, Matthew McQuillan, Isabel Riley, Naiya Mainigi, Zach Musthaq, and Sarah Meigs.

Image courtesy of Amory Meigs