Robots to compete in Walker County, Ga. this weekend

photo Avery Johnson picks up his Lego robot in order to take it back to the computer and modify the commands he has given the bot at the Chattanooga School of Liberal Arts in Chattanooga.

Know and go• What: Northwest Georgia Regional Qualifier robotics competition• When: Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. An opening ceremony is at 11 a.m. and robot games start at noon.• Where: Saddle Ridge Middle School, 9858 North Highway 27 Rock Spring, GA 30739Tennessee winnersFourteen area teams from Saturday's regional competition at Signal Mountain Middle-High School will advance to Tennessee's First Lego state robotics competition in Cookeville, Tenn. on Feb. 14:• St. Jude Robotics, teams I and II, St. Jude School• Tyner Tybots, Tyner Middle Academy• Lego Leopards, Lakeside Academy• Lookout Mountain Legos and Robojackets teams, Lookout Valley Elementary School• Nolan Robotics, Nolan Elementary School• Thrasher and Panther teams, Thrasher Elementary School• CSLA Eagles, Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts• ELA Wildbots, East Lake Academy• Team Blue M, McCallie School• Red Bank Middle School 8• Shockbots, Falling Water Elementary School

Last year, there was one robotics club in all of Walker County, at Rossville Middle School.

Now, all of Walker County's elementary and middle schools have a club with teams that will compete Saturday at the county's first-ever robotics meet at the new Saddle Ridge Middle School in Rock Spring, Ga.

"We went from one team last year to 22 teams this year," said John McDonald, the technology teacher at Rossville Middle School who's organizing Saturday's meet. It's a regional competition for the First Lego League, an international competition for robots made from Lego plastic blocks.

Funding made the difference, McDonald said.

Donations came this year from employees of the Tennessee Valley Authority, EPB and the North Georgia Electric Membership Corp.

"We've been doing it a long time in Hamilton County, and we just got started in Walker County," said retired TVA employee Charley Spencer, who helps organize and fund robotics clubs in the Chattanooga area.

"There was pent-up demand. It's just kind of gone nuts down there [in Walker County]," he said.

Students learn skills such as math and programming with the Lego robots.

"It's just a great educational tool," Spencer said.

More than 800 people braved rainy weather Saturday, he said, to see 27 teams from public, private and homeschool teams from Hamilton County compete in First Lego League meet at Signal Mountain Middle-High School.

Scott Rosenow saw one of two robotics teams he coaches at the Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts advance to the state championship that will be held on Feb. 14 in Cookeville, Tenn.

"They had a great time," Rosenow said. "They're very excited about how things went."

TVA employees have raised over $2 million in the past 10 years through such events as golf tournaments and have given it all to public schools for robotics, environment, energy conservation, solar and wind generators, and an annuity for college stipends, Spencer said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at [email protected] or www.facebook.com/tim.omarzu or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.