Local Lego League Promotes Science Technology and Teamwork
By Reyana Tegtmeier, 7th Grade
Lego League is a competition where students ages 8-13 compete using a robot they make out of legos, a theme with a project they have to solve, and core values they need to use. This year, Pawnee City is sending five groups to the Qualifier, the first competition, which is on January 16 in Nebraska City. The state tournament is at the Sac Air Museum on February 16. Three of the sixth grade groups the school is sending include: Dukes of Robotics, Lego Bulls, and Cool Whip Triangles. And there are two after-school groups named; Recyclin’ 7 and the Green Team; made up of returning Lego League seventh and eighth graders. Their coaches are Julie Pierce and Mary Moser, who started this program at our school five years ago. Logan Lang, a Senior in high school, who has been programming and building robots for years, is a Mentor for the after-school groups.
Pawnee City has been doing Lego League for five years now and the themes they have done in the past include; World Class Learning, Nature’s Fury, Food Factor, and Senior Solutions. This year’s theme is Trash Trek where the teams must try to reuse, recycle, or eliminate trash of some sort. All the teams this year are using different items of trash to try to recycle/reuse them.
The core values element of this project are things that the kids competing want to apply to their everyday lives, some of which are the spirit of friendly competition, sharing their experiences, working together, having fun, learning is more important than winning, learning with your peers, being a team, and working together being one of the biggest things. Judges score how well the groups work together at competition using a certain task that the groups must try to complete.
The start of Lego League was in the United States, but it is Global now. Lego League has been going on since 1999 with 1998 being the pilot year. After qualifier, if teams make it, they get to compete at state. There is also a country competition where they get to compete against different countries which would be super cool to compete in.
Deb Weitzenkamp was the extension coordinator in Pawnee County and brought the Lego League competition to Julie Pierce’s attention, asking if she would be interested in doing this as a class project. After thinking about doing this, Julie Pierce asked Mary Moser if she was willing to help, and after that “we snowballed from there and it has been an awesome experience ever since” stated Pierce.
“They had to start pretty much from scratch,”Pierce continued, “having to buy all new lego parts, new kits and NXTs, which are basic robotic programming bricks or the ‘brain’ of the robot.”
The first year of doing the competition only sixth graders competed, so the school only had two robot kits to make robots. The following year, there were three teams, one after-school group and two sixth grade groups. After that, it just built from there, this year being the most teams ever taken to competition.
Having the knowledge from earlier competitions, knowing the layout of the competition and how the qualifier runs, helps out immensely from a coach’s standpoint, says Julie Pierce. From a kid’s standpoint, the after-school kids learned a lot more about how the competition runs, what to prepare for, and what the judges might ask, so a returning member has less preparation. As a sixth grader coming in new, the coaches having that knowledge can help the kids focus on what they need for the project and the robot competition.
Every year that Pawnee City has done this competition, they have had at least one team make it to state. Also, every year, except for in 2013 when only an after-school group made it, at least one sixth grade team has made it to state.
Many of the sixth graders said that the best part about Lego League is building and programming the robot. A lot of them agreed that the most difficult part is working together as a team. One of the most common goals between all of the teams is making it to state, which they want to try to aim for by working together. Many agreed that working together is the make or break point for a team making it to state or getting an award. When asked about what advice she would give to someone coming into Lego League, sixth grader, Stella Hunzeker, stated, “Try not to fight with other groups because that doesn’t help at all.” Also when asked, Sam Schiffbauer said, “Keep your cool, do your best, and most importantly, have fun!”