News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters youth shine in robotics competition

A group of Sisters youths built a Lego robot and turned it loose in First Lego League competition at Mountain View High School on Sunday, December 11. Their robot made an outstanding run and the group just missed qualifying for state competition.

The Broken Top Builders — fifth graders Amelia Folin, Arora Restani, Wesley Womack, and Mallory Perry; fourth graders Jordan Oathes, Brecken Poulos, and Will Bulloch; and seventh grader Nona Smith — have been practicing every week since September for the competition. The program is designed to build STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills, while fostering teamwork and cooperation and an understanding of how innovation can address real-world challenges.

This year’s event, titled “Superpowered,” was focused on energy — creation, usage and storage. In addition to building a robot to run missions in competition, the students were required to develop a presentation to be made to a judges’ panel on energy.

Broken Top Builders is an independent team, not sponsored by Sisters School District. Steve and Julianne Folin served as coaches.

“My daughter (Amelia) did it last year when we lived in Albany,” Steve Folin said. “That was our first taste of Lego Robotics. She really loved it.”

When the family moved to Sisters a year ago, they wanted to continue with the program. Sisters schools were aware of Lego Robotics, but there isn’t a formal program here — yet. The Folins put the word out that they were forming a team on their own, and got a strong response.

The team practiced in the Folins’ garage. The couple provided the parts and pieces for the robot, and the participants’ families split other costs.

The coaches said that Sunday’s competition run was very strong. Coaches are not allowed to witness the presentation, but their surmise is that it was that part of the competition that set the team back from advancing.

The group created a comic book to explore an aspect of solar power.

“They did some research and found out that your average solar panel can last 25 to 30 years,” Steve Folin said.

The presentation examined how used solar panels could be salvaged and repackaged rather than discarded.

“My guess is that the judges were looking for a little more research and completion,” Folin said.

Though they didn’t advance to state competition, the Broken Top Builders could be proud of their performance. The coaches hope that Sisters schools will be able to take the program on as a formal school project, since the schools have space and resources that would help it grow, and it fits in very well with the Sisters School District’s focus on science and technology.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


Reader Comments(0)