ready! sat down! Change the world! While that might be a lofty end result for Saturday’s Lego Robotics Team Competition at Fruita, what Telluride Intermediate School students learn in this STEM-based endeavor may actually just lead to some kind of innovation that could change the future. The First Lego League (FLL) is the regional qualifier for the Colorado State Championships.
The theme of this year’s competition is energy. The TIS team will work together to design their robot, program it, and then perform a series of tasks for the points within a certain time frame. Year 6 coach Luis Tavares said his teams have advanced twice before and won awards in the Best Robot category.
“It has always been an honor for me to be a coach,” Tavares said. “Seeing kids so creative and learning how to work together is a wonderful thing to see. It’s a lot like team sports, but we’re just trying one to get to the states and maybe beyond.”
This year’s team was chosen by Pinhead Institute staff members, Cassidy Green, Charlie Clark, Finn McGinty, Forrest Olson, Henry Saving, Keaton Koenig, Lily Pearl Williamson, Lincoln Potson, Otto Adolphe and Sebastian White. Students are selected based on their interest in robotics and science. The Brick Busters meet twice a week in the Telluride High School STEM Laboratory, to brainstorm what the team’s approach to energy will be. As expected, it’s iconic.
“Kids have to build a robot and complete as many tasks as possible in 2 minutes and 30 seconds,” Tavares explained. “Also, they have to devise a way to help their community or the world. For example, this year the kids decided to try to convert electricity from lightning to batteries.”
Legos are very popular, as most parents who walk barefoot on a stray stone know. Lego retail outlets usually have lines out the door on busy weekends, with kids — and adults — clamoring for certain pieces for custom projects, or the latest design collections. The Legos used by the robotics team is slightly different.
“You can program the Legos we use with an iPad or a laptop and have them do whatever you want,” Tavares said. “Programming is fun, so it’s not just about building, but programming as well.”
Tavares said that using LEGO creates a natural way to develop a young student’s curiosity for building things and solving problems.
“Kids love Lego because they are so satisfying to build,” he said. “STEM education is very important in my book because it is completely practical. This might make kids interested in learning more robotics.”
Kari Koenig’s daughter, Keaton, is on the team. Koenig said her daughter’s interest in robotics began at an early age.
“I started taking Lego Jr. Robotics through Pinhead for two years until I was old enough to join the First Lego League (in fourth grade),” Koenig said. “I also think that the recent ‘Good Night Oppy’ show about the Mars Rover made the students more enthralled about the practical applications of robotics.”
“Good Night Oppy” was shown at this year’s Telluride Film Festival and presented to students at Telluride Public Schools. The documentary follows Opportunity, the Mars exploration rover whose creators and NASA scientists have dubbed “Oppy.” Originally expected to live for only 90 days, the powerful robot roamed Mars for about 15 years.
Koenig said members of the Lego Robotics team are learning a set of skills that can be applied in any field students might choose in the future.
“This year I realized that the program is about more than just robotics,” she said. “One of the components of the competition involves coming up with an idea to improve the power supply chain, researching that idea, and presenting it to the judges in the competition. The challenge teaches children to have an entrepreneurial mindset at a very young age. In order to be successful, the team must show a “dignified professionalism” “And works well as a team. These are essential skills in any career path, not just robotics. Their projects require a collaborative approach.”
“Dignified Professionalism” is one of FLL’s core values and is defined as “a way of doing things that encourages high quality work, emphasizes the value of others and is respectful of individuals and society.”
With this model in mind, and with skills acquired as “Brick Busters,” the world is eagerly awaiting the possibilities the team will bring with them to Fruita and beyond.
The TIS Lego Robotics team, as well as bakery sales and other efforts, happily accept donations at pinheadinstitute.org/cause-view/first-lego-league.
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