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As part of our Vision 2035 — Together, we succeed by building opportunities and fostering community for every student to reach their full potential — at the Roanoke Rapids Graded School District, we work hard to ensure students graduate life ready to succeed in the workplace, higher education, armed services, and the community. 

Our Portrait of a Graduate includes three focus areas: Academic well-roundedness, community and civic responsibility, career exploration and workplace skills. 

We believe that the skills needed to become life-ready include being caring, civically minded, collaborators, communicators, creative thinkers, and critical thinkers. 

In order for students to graduate life-ready, they need opportunities to learn and practice these skills along their journey from pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade.

On Saturday, I had the opportunity to go to South Central High School in Winterville with our Chaloner Middle School robotics teams, who represented us very well in the FIRST LEGO League competition. 

This day brought together our life-ready skills, and students had many opportunities to demonstrate caring, civically minded, collaborating, communicating, creative thinking, and critical thinking. 

The competition was a full day as it started at 7:30 a.m. and ended at 4:30 p.m.

Our students have been working diligently for three months to prepare for this competition by researching, problem-solving, coding, and engineering. 

They built and programmed two LEGO SPIKE Prime robots. They conducted two research projects aligned to this year’s theme, Masterpiece, that identified and solved relevant, real-world problems in our community and combined technology and the arts. 

Our students were divided into two teams: Lords of Lego (focusing their innovation project on Lakeland Cultural Arts Center) and Brickheads (focusing their innovation project on raising funds and awareness for a new skatepark at Emry Park).

On competition day, students engaged in four events: robot design (a presentation on their robot design, programs, and strategy), robot game (three 2.5-minute matches for their robot to complete as many missions as possible), innovation project (a presentation to explain their innovation project), and core values (demonstrating teamwork, inclusion, impact, fun, discovery, and innovation throughout the entire process). 

Our students participated in a 30-minute session in front of a team of judges where they presented their innovation project, robot design, coding, and core values, and they competed in the three matches of the robot game in front of all 19 competing teams and spectators.

Students had some surprises during the lunch break. 

SA Thompson & Associates, a full-service certified public accounting firm in Emporia sponsored a delicious Chick-Fil-A lunch for them, staff sponsors, and parents. 

When students finished eating, they noticed that WNCT Channel 9 was there to cover the competition, and our students were interviewed by one of the reporters.

Like so many things in life, sometimes events don’t go the way that we planned. 

Each team began the robot game with a first match that did not go as well as students wanted, but all of our students showed determination, persistence, and sportsmanship. 

They went into the pit area and collaborated to make adjustments to their robots. 

When they returned for their second and third matches, their robots maneuvered very effectively. 

Our Brickheads ran a match so successfully that they earned all of the points possible for that round for their robot! 

Throughout it all, what made me the happiest was to see our students encouraging not only each other, but also the other teams they competed against. 

They gave high-fives to opposing teams at the end of the matches, and they never gave up! 

I believe that the judges noticed this too. 

During the awards ceremony, our Brickheads team won the Judges Award!

Experiences for our students like these are impossible without our dedicated staff. 

A big thank you goes out to Jenny Shives, AIG coordinator, and Mary Campbell, sixth-grade teacher, for their hard work, time, and encouragement of our students! I am so proud of them and am excited to see what their next adventures will be.