LigerBots Host Newton Qualifier FLL Tournament and STEAM Expo
December 1, 2022

On Saturday, November 19, the LigerBots hosted the FLL Qualifier, a LEGO robotics tournament for middle and elementary schoolers. Eighteen teams of younger students from throughout Massachusetts came to compete in fun, fast-paced matches refereed by LigerBots students. The sound of the MC announcing the matches over the background music, a sea of colorful custom T-shirts, and LEGOs scattered throughout the school—this was the scene of the event, which was almost back in full swing after losing momentum from the pandemic.

LigerBots student Benji referees an FLL match.

Running alongside the Newton FLL Qualifier, the annual LigerBots STEAM expo was a huge success! LigerBots offered eight hands-on activities, and there were several outside exhibitors, including the Massachusetts National Guard, Green Newton, and Johnson String Instrument, as well as high school groups such as the NNHS Programming club, NNHS STEMentors, NSHS Science team, and NSHS Women in STEM. More than 100 kids engaged in a variety of STEAM activities and demonstrations. Among the LigerBots activities, approximately 100 binary bracelets, 100 balloon cars, 100 origami double pyramids and tangrams, 50 cups of slime, 20 solar ovens, and more than 100 custom buttons were made.

During the STEAM expo, the NSHS Science Team helps students build balloon cars.
A pair of children craft DIY balloon cars during the STEAM expo.

NNTV, Newton North’s student-run television station, interviewed several LigerBots and FLL students during the event. Team member Kavin talked about the little moments that made the LigerBots fun for him, like playing soccer with fellow team members. With teammates Kevin and Roshan, Kavin also talked to NNTV about LigerBots’ core values and a basic rundown of FLL and the STEAM Expo. Despite his now sore throat, Kavin had an awesome time giving his thoughts!

A representative from NewTV interviews LigerBots member Kavin.

The event ended with an awards ceremony and a dance party. Awards in several categories were given out. The five finalists were the Goofy Gyros (Champion’s Award Winner) from Ashland, Mechanical Madness (Champion’s Award Runner-up) from North Attleboro, Team Arrow from Canton, the Green Gearticks from Lincoln, and the Exploding Bananas from Lexington. Congratulations to these students, who will move on to the Massachusetts FLL Championship, at WPI, in the next round.

Students play limbo before the awards ceremony.

Of the 18 participating teams, five were from Newton: the Hawks, the Cookie Coders, Team Voltage, the Newton Nanobots, and the Tie-Dye Chickens. The Cookie Coders won second place in the Core Values judging and Team Voltage won the Rising All-Star award.

The 18 participating FLL teams, consisting of elementary and middle school students from all over Massachusetts. 

The LigerBots have a Blast at Pumpkin Smash!
November 17, 2022
LigerBots students pose on top of a pile of crushed pumpkins during Pumpkin Smash.

On November 6, The LigerBots unveiled two pumpkin-smashing machines for Newton’s annual Pumpkin Smash, an event at City Hall that encourages residents to compost their pumpkins in the best way possible—by throwing, tossing, or crushing them!

Both machines featured massive sledgehammers to obliterate pumpkins, though with slightly-different mechanisms: the first utilized our 2020 robot pulling a rope to trigger its sledgehammer, and the second used balls thrown from our 2022 robot to push its hammer down.

LigerBots students worked tirelessly the past few weeks to design and build the machines. With the guidance of veteran members, first-years learned essential skills in design, prototyping, CAD (computer-aided design), and manufacturing to create the pumpkin-smashing mechanisms.

During Pumpkin Smash, onlookers watch in awe after one of our smashers destroys a pumpkin.

Alongside destroying hundreds of pumpkins, the LigerBots also led a booth for children with hands-on STEAM activities, including our popular binary beads and origami activities.

With the help of LigerBots members, children create bracelets encoding short messages using morse code during Pumpkin Smash.

After the event, the crushed pumpkins were composted by Black Earth Compost to nourish the city’s soil. An estimated 750 to 1,000 Newton residents attended the event, making it a smashing success!   

The aftermath after our smashing mechanisms destroy hundreds of smashed pumpkins.

On Monday, November 7, we launched our annual Mock Three-Day Design process, an activity that brings first-years, veterans, and mentors into the engineering process in preparation for kick off in January. Over three Mondays, design groups will brainstorm, negotiate, organize, and present ideas in robot mechanisms that will help the team during competition season. We can’t wait to see what groups will come up with!

All team members not involved in Mock Three-Day Design are currently preparing for the upcoming FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Newton Qualifier, a LEGO robotics tournament for elementary and middle schoolers. We invite you to come cheer on local FLL teams at this year’s event, which will be on November 19 at Newton North. A STEAM Expo, featuring hands-on science activities for children, will also be hosted. Read here for more information about FLL.

LigerBots continues going strong in team training and fall projects. Engineering students—including many first-years—are upgrading our drivetrain (the mechanism a robot uses to propel itself) to increase freedom on the field and improve modularity compared to past drivetrains. New programming students are beginning to use Java to help program this drivetrain. In the CAD group, first-years are learning basic CAD skills in preparation for a CADathon—a short, collaborative CAD event—over Thanksgiving break. Marketing students are working on contacting clubs and companies to promote our upcoming FLL STEAM Expo, which will happen concurrently with the FLL Tournament. And, in the graphics group, students are developing visual materials for the upcoming First Lego League tournament, including a STEAM flyer for a DIY gimbal activity.

In the graphics group, Coach Diane photographs Katie creating a gimbal for a STEAM activity flyer.

Finally, an exciting announcement—for the entirety of November, the LigerBots’ accomplishments are on display at the Newton Free Library! Come see our two displays, located next to the main desk on the first floor. Thanks to the graphics group for designing the displays! Read our announcement here.

Graphics director Emily next to one of the display cases featuring our team.

For the month of November, the LigerBots’ achievements will be proudly showcased at the Newton Free Library. The two display cases, featuring the LigerBots’ accomplishments in both FIRST Robotics and community outreach, are located next to the main desk on the first floor. A big thanks to the graphics group, led by graphics director Emily and mentor Diane Levy, for creating such beautiful displays!

Join us at the FIRST LEGO League Newton Qualifier and STEAM Expo!
November 9, 2022

Attention everyone interested in STEAM! 

Want to spend a Saturday afternoon doing fun, hands-on STEAM activities for children or watching robots compete in this year’s Newton Qualifier in the FIRST LEGO League Tournament? The LigerBots, an award-winning high school robotics team, will be hosting this year’s FLL Tournament Newton Qualifier and STEAM Expo on Saturday, November 19 from 12–5 p.m. at Newton North High School. Masks are required except for designated eating locations and admission is free!

In the spirit of FIRST encouraging students to mentor other students, the LigerBots host a tournament for younger students every year. The FLL Challenge is a program targeting 4th–8th graders to design and build robots out of LEGOs. In this Newton Qualifier for the FLL Tournament, Elementary and middle school teams will compete with robots under the theme “Super Powered,” inspired by the sustainable energy development of the United Nations!

Meanwhile, at the STEAM Expo, kids will have the opportunity to learn: 

  • Science: making slime using chemistry
  • Technology: programming a human robot
  • Engineering: crafting a balloon car with working axles
  • Art: building artistic technique with string instruments
  • Math: creating origami

Come interact with robots! The LigerBots build a new 120-pound robot every year and will be showing off Prometheus, our 2022 robot, at the STEAM Expo! Don’t miss this opportunity to learn, explore and encourage STEAM in our community and the younger generation!

Come see the LigerBots Displays at the Newton Free Library!
November 7, 2022
Graphics director Emily next to one of the display cases featuring our team.

For the month of November, the LigerBots’ achievements will be proudly showcased at the Newton Free Library. The two display cases, featuring the LigerBots’ accomplishments in both FIRST Robotics and community outreach, are located next to the main desk on the first floor. A big thanks to the graphics group, led by graphics director Emily and mentor Diane Levy, for creating such beautiful displays!

LigerBots have an Awesome Time at N.E.R.D.!
October 30, 2022
During N.E.R.D., Co-CTO Nate positions the robot for autonomous drive. 
After a match, LigerBots students take the robot off of the climbing assembly.

On October 22, twenty-five LigerBots attended the first annual New England Robotics Derby (N.E.R.D.), an off-season robotics competition hosted by fellow FRC team Billerica Bionics at Billerica Memorial High School. We competed alongside twenty-seven other teams. 

N.E.R.D. was a great experience for our new members to get a feel for the FIRST Robotics Competition atmosphere. They helped set up the game field, learning about how large-scale field elements, like the climb assembly and driver stations, can be broken into smaller parts. Grasping driver and troubleshooting skills, several first-years also assisted in driving the robot and repairing it between matches. LigerBots students also met many other teams and learned about their different robot designs and strategies. 

In preparation for a match, the drive team sets up the drive computer.

Our team did a fantastic job by making it to the quarter-finals. More importantly, this event was an incredible learning experience for learning the ropes of competition, including field setup, pit repair, teamwork, and “coopertition”—cooperative competition.

As always, great thanks to our sponsors Newton Schools Foundation, Newton Public Schools, Eastern Bank, MathWorks, Paytronix, Raytheon Missiles & Defense, Rockwell Automation, Teradyne, Village Bank, Honda Village, Rotary Club of Newton, IvyMath, the Willins, and the Schwartzes. Your support is greatly appreciated!

To the shock of onlookers, Co-CTO Kevin shoots a sick shot during N.E.R.D.’s human player challenge.