Little Falls Girls Robotics Team Wins Core Values Award

By Tina Pappas


The Girl Power Robotics team of Little Falls were honored by Mayor James Damiano and Township Council for winning the core values award at the FIRST Robotics World Championship this past April.

Some technologically-inclined girls got to strut their stuff recently when they took part in the FIRST Lego League Explore World Festival at the FIRST Robotics Championship, held in Houston this past April. The international competition hosted over 450 student teams in various divisions from early elementary through high school.  

This year’s season was “Cargo Connect,” where students were challenged to think of new ways to overcome transportation challenges. The team members Madelyn Larionoff, Ella Larionoff, Evelyn Chichester, Camilla Petracca and Payton Culver, were recently honored by Mayor James Damiano and council members during their Township Council meeting.

According to Colleen Larionoff, Girl Scout troop co-leader and robotics coach, her daughter Madelyn, who is a founding member of the team, got turned on to Robotics in kindergarten. 

“Our robotics team is called ‘Girl Power Robotics,'” she said. “Our Girl

Scout troop completed an engineering badge in kindergarten and a robotics badge in first grade.  They really enjoyed it so Madelyn asked if we could start a team when they were in first grade and they did. They’ve done this for past few years.”

Colleen added that this past year while the team was in fourth grade and one

Team Members Madelyn and Ella Larionoff of Girl Power Robotics of Little Falls show off their award.

team member was in first grade, they won the core values award at the Mid-Atlantic Regional competition, which was held virtually in December. This award is given to the team that displays overall outstanding achievement in the FIRST Core Values: Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork, and Fun.  They were also invited to participate in the FIRST Robotics World Championship this past April.

“We went to Houston where they participated and they won the core values award there as well,” she explained. “They were honored by Mayor Damiano and council. Now they’re actually moving into the middle school level and expanding their program as well.”

The girls are currently in the Girl Scouts’ Juniors Troop 97322 and there is one girl is in the Girls Scouts’ Daisies Troop 98180, but most of the girls started taking part in robotics when they were all in the Daisies, Colleen said. She added that girls are considering whether they want to start a program officially through the town.

For right now it’s running as an off-shoot of our Girl Scouts Troop,” she noted.

Madelyn said she and her friends who are involved with Girl Power Robotics really love what they do.

“My friends and I started in kindergarten and now most of us are going into fifth grade,” she said. “We love it so much that we’re taking part in competitions every year. This year we made it to worlds and it’s so fun. It’s nice to compete with other teams and meet everyone. It was a fun trip and we also went to NASA.”

The Girl Power Robotics team of Little Falls discuss innovation concepts at the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

Team member Evelyn echoed the sentiment.

“Houston was the best time of my life because we got to meet people from all over the world,” she added.

Team member Payton agreed and commented that robotics requires a lot of teamwork.  

“We had to solve a problem related to the transportation of cargo,” she explained.  “This year we have to solve problems about energy.”  

Team member Camilla also said the team needed to use creativity to think up ideas.

“We also had to work hard to make our structures better,” she added.  

Colleen’s younger daughter Ella, who is the youngest of the group and entering second grade, also enjoys competing

The Girl Power Robotics team of Little Falls show their exhibit booth at the FIRST Robotics World Championship.

and has started her own elementary level “Explore” team since the her teammates will be moving up to the middle school “Challenge” level.

“The reason why I like it because the adventure of coding and robotics never ends and it’s a lot of fun,” Ella said.

Colleen said that a good amount of the type of robotics the team focuses on is creative problem solving. 

“This upcoming year’s theme has to do with sustainable energy and last year’s theme was problems with cargo transport,” she noted. “They learn a about real world problems, solving it and working together as a team.  In the Challenge level they also build and code a robot to navigate obstacles and solve issues on a game field. The competitive aspect is really minimal, it’s more about skill-building and problem-solving activity.”


Photos courtesy of Colleen Larionoff

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