The Robojackets pose with their second-place trophy after the state competition at Georgia Tech. (Photo: Contributed)

Lookout Valley Elementary School’s First Lego League robotics team is seeking donations and business sponsorships so they can travel to Arkansas for a competition.

The Robojackets have been invited to the Razorback Invitational at the University of Arkansas May 17-21. The team placed second overall in the state competition at Georgia Tech, which gave them the opportunity to compete with and learn from 72 robotics teams from all over the world.

“With the national robotics event being very competitive, most teams will be middle school teams with corporate sponsors, so we are very proud of the accomplishments thus far of our elementary team,” Lookout Valley Elementary School Principal Alisan Taylor said in a prepared statement.

In order for the team to participate in the national tournament, they are seeking to raise $13,000 by April 1. This includes the price of registration, boarding, meals and a charter bus.

The team is still a little short of its goal. 

“We also see our journey as an opportunity to not only represent Lookout Valley and Hamilton County, but also an opportunity to showcase Chattanooga as the Gig City,” according to a prepared statement.

Any individual or company that would like to donate to the team should make checks payable to Lookout Valley Elementary with “Robojackets” in the memo line. If the goal is not reached, the donated funds will further support the schoolwide robotics and STEM lab programming, according to a prepared statement.

About the Robojackets
The Robojackets have been participating in First Lego League robotics for the past six years. Philip Cooper, a fifth-grade teacher at Lookout Valley, has been the team’s coach for the past five years.

The team consists of 10 fourth- and fifth-grade students, ages 9 to 11 years old.

This year’s theme for the state competition was “animal allies” about animals and humans working together to solve a problem. The kids decided to do their project on honeybees after learning about “zombees,” which is a bee that has been infected by the zombie fly, altering a bee’s natural behavior. 

Cooper emphasized that the competition isn’t solely based on robotics. One-fourth of it is robotics, one-fourth is the designing and programming of the robot, one-fourth is their ability to work as a team and help others, and the final fourth is how the students solve the problem.

“It’s not just about robots; it’s about being able to sell your idea, talk about your idea [and] teamwork,” Cooper said.

He said this type of thinking lines up with how companies such as Google, Apple and Nike interact in the workplace and that students are learning how to work in that environment in the future.

Cooper attributes much of the team’s success to the support and help he has received from the school administration, his co-coach Candace Baggett, the kids’ parents and the community. He said Charley Spencer from TVA and Scott Rosenhow from Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts have helped establish the team and support it financially thus far. 

“I wouldn’t do it if [everyone] wasn’t on board and wanted to do it,” Cooper said. “It takes a village.”

Eric Wise is a contributing writer. He is currently attending UTC, where he is a staff writer for the school newspaper, The University Echo. He also serves as the alumni relations chairman for his fraternity.