More than a classic childhood toy that all parents have painfully stepped on at least once, Lego’s also serve an educational purpose in the First Lego League. For students in grades fourth through eighth, the First Lego League is a competition in which a robot is built from Lego’s to perform an assigned task. Team Unstoppable from Tipp City recently won the top award for Mechanical Design at the regional competition.
The members of Team Unstoppable, all fourth and fifth graders, are Emma Marlowe, Zoe Maggard, Brady Kinsman, Dylan Johnsen, Ethan Spencer, and Madeline Staub. They are coached by Katherine Kyle Johnsen and Steve Staub. Out of 24 teams in the competition they finished fifth overall.
A big improvement in their efforts over last year was noticed by the team. “We’re learning more about how to work together rather than just hanging out,” said Brady Kinsman.
There are four main sections of the competition. First is the Core Values Session, where the team is interviewed by a panel of judges. Second, is the Robot Design, for which the team demonstrate that their robot is designed to properly complete the tasks. Thirdly, is Research Project, for which the team gives a short presentation on the innovative problem solving they completed. Finally, the team must use the robots they designed and built to autonomously complete a set of tasks.
Each year there’s a theme that encompasses each part of the competition and for 2013 it was Natures Fury, and how to survive a natural disaster. Team Unstoppable focused on Pompeii and the survival of a volcano, such as Vesuvius. “We dressed as Roman Gods for our presentation,” said Emma Marlowe.
The top honors for Mechanical Design was a delightful surprise for the team, as their design wasn’t as technically complex as some of the others. “We’re old school. Our robot was very simple, but it got the job done,” said Ethan Spencer.
Being a part of First Lego League benefited the team members in a number of different ways, including the opportunity to play with Lego’s. It also strengthens personal relationships. “I like time spent with friends,” said Madeline Staub.
As Emma Marlowe experienced, free thinking is also encouraged. “You have the chance to design and don’t have to do it the exact way as everyone else,” she said.
Beyond robots and other structures, the First Lego League uses Lego’s to build important employment and life skills. “I’ve learned teamwork. Before, I always just wanted to work alone,” said Ethan Spencer.
Dylan Johnsen, Brady Kinsman, Zoe Maggard, Ethan Spencer, Emma Marlowe, Madeline Staub