If people at the 10th annual First Lego League Qualifying Tournament didn't know who Wilbraham & Monson Academy was when the competition started, they sure knew who Coach Luke Pelletier and his five students were by the end of the day.
Competing against 22 middle school teams from Western Massachusetts, the Titans won one category and placed second in two others Dec. 9 at Agawam High School to advance to the state event.
"The team worked extremely well with each other," Coach Pelletier said. "The five core kids really worked outstandingly together. They came in with no experience and they left with a tremendous amount of experience. Yuzuki, the program she made was beautiful."
The five WMA Middle School students who competed at the nine-hour event were Gabe Dziura '24, Brady Gouin '23, Michelle Itkin '22, Yuzuki Yamaoka '23 and Jinyu "Melody" Zhan '22.
WMA placed second in the overall category, which included how its robot performed and how well the students presented to judges in three areas: their project on urban water cycles, how they worked together, and how well they knew the robot and the programming. The presentations were given without assistance from coaches.
"It showed they knew what they were doing," Coach Pelletier said.
The meet didn't start as planned for the Titans, who struggled in their first two (of five) attempts in the Robot Performance portion due to an issue with the table.
"They figured it out, and without my help," Coach Pelletier explained. "The three (attempts) after the first two were perfect. It was good for them to feel good, I felt good as a coach because I didn't tell them what to do, and the parents saw it. They figured it out so well that we beat everyone in the afternoon at the bracket competition."
While the judges were calculating scores, the students competed in a friendly head-to-head competition with all of the other participants, which WMA won.
Approximately 400 teams competed in qualifying tournaments at various events throughout the state. Massachusetts hosts two state meets, with WMA earning a trip to Worcester Polytechnic Institute Dec. 16.