• Competitive robotics at Jefferson Middle School 

    Coach:  Ms. Kate McKenzie kmckenzie@cpsk12.org

                Teacher page - about me/my classes

    2021-22 wrap-up

    This year we had two FIRST® LEGO®  League Challenge teams -- 6th grade Twisted Gears and 7th grade Eye of the Storm -- and 8th grade FIRST® Tech Challenge team called Ant Colony.  FLL teams competed via Zoom in January and FTC competed in person, making three separate trips to St. Louis. We are looking forward to being fully in person again next season!

    The 2022-23 seasons will start in August for FLL and late September for FTC.  FIRST® rules limit teams to 10 students per FLL team and 15 per FTC team for competitions. Tournament team membership will be students who are participating regularly and consistently and are in good academic and behavior standing.  

    Students wishing to participate in both FIRST Robotics and cross country will need to discuss the schedule and their commitment level with Ms. McKenzie and Coach Clowe.

    Any JMS students are welcome to come to FLL and FTC meetings to see what we do.  If you are sure you want to be on a team, fill out this application form and turn it in to Ms. McKenzie. 
    Google Doc: JMS Robotics application (you can print it OR make a copy to your own Drive folder and fill it out, then print it or send me a link to it.


    FLL typically meets Monday and Thursdays after school through September and then every day after school for the 4 weeks before our tournament, which will likely be in early November. 

    FTC typically meets Monday and Thursday from late September to mid-October, then we ramp up to prepare for meets and the tournament.  Meets are typically in November and December, then the league tournament is in January.

    Robotics is a competitive sport.  We ask students to be committed to participating at a level equal to athletics. 


    FIRST Robotics is a global nonprofit that runs robotics competitions at all levels for students ages 5 - 18.  You can learn more about the whole program here: www.firstinspires.org


    FIRST LEGO League (FLL) (6th-8th grade)

    FLL logo FLL trophy FLL uses LEGO Mindstorms EV3 or SPIKE Prime robotics and has a heavy emphasis on developing soft skills such as teamwork, project/time management, research skills, public speaking and group communication.  Students build and program autonomous robots to navigate a game field and perform tasks. They also research a real-world problem related to the theme for the season and propose a well thought out and innovative solution. 

    At the tournament, they compete all day with other teams in the robot game, and also go before a panel of judges to present their research project solution, their robot design and strategy, and talk about their teamwork.  The top teams will advance from a local tournament to a state tournament.

    Teams are allowed no more than 10 members under FIRST rules.  

    To learn more about FLL, watch this YouTube video: About FIRST LEGO League

     FIRST Tech Challenge  (8th grade)

    FTC logo FTC has greater emphasis on technical skills and the engineering design process. Students use industrial-style parts to build a robot that is both autonomous and remote controlled. They generate an engineering design notebook showing all their work and design process, which they then present to judges.   Students must already have good teamwork skills for this competition because the build process is much more intense and technically demanding.

    Two MU engineering students come to meetings every week to mentor the team with robot design, building and programming. FTC teams are allowed no more than 12 members under FIRST rules. 

    To learn more about FTC, watch this YouTube video: What is First Tech Challenge?


    Robotics is an expensive activity. It costs about $1600 per team per season. The JMS STEAM fund covers team registration but Ms. McKenzie applies for grants and accepts donations to cover the other costs, such as upgrading robots, team t-shirts, project materials and snacks for meetings. If we have to travel for a tournament, parents will be asked to provide transportation and supervision.


    I am looking for a business to sponsor our teams! If you know of a Columbia company that would like to be recognized for supporting educational robotics with their name on our t-shirts oodles of appreciation, please help me connect with them.


    Meeting schedule

    Robotics begins meeting the week of Sept. 6. 


    FLL team members will be determined by Oct 1.

    We will meet every B day after school in room 042 from 2:45 -  4:05. Students can ride the activity bus home or arrange parent pickup.  In October, meetings may start going until 4:30 or 5.

    As we approach the tournament date, we will add additional weekday work sessions and some Saturday morning work sessions.


    FTC game release is in mid-September. We will start working on the robot late-September.  The meeting schedule may change based on the availability of our MU Engineering student mentors.

    FTC competition consists of two "qualifying meets" with other teams, and a tournament.  They meets will probably be in November or December and the tournament is in late January or February.  (A lot has changed this year with the regional competition structure, so there is a little uncertainty.)

    Benefits -- Why join a robotics team?

    Competitive robotics brings together many skills that lead to success in life and careers. Students learn many technical skills, design process thinking, teamwork skills, time management and how to succeed under pressure, fail gracefully and learn from mistakes.  Universities and employers recognize the benefits of competitive robotics.  FIRST participants are eligible for more than $3 million in college scholarships given to high school seniors every year.  Employers such as Boeing, 3M, National Instruments, Honeywell and Disney are all sponsors of FIRST programs because they recognize the workforce value of all the technical and soft skills that FIRST teaches.


    JMS robotics teams are sponsored by these generous organizations:

    Columbia STEM Alliance https://columbiastemalliance.com/