Students and Robots Compete at Lego League Championship
The competition at South Anchorage High School is based on the STEM model: honing in on science, technology, engineering and math.
For the Clark Middle School Falconbots, it’s been a long road to the Lego League State Championship.
Their journey started four months ago with a simple challenge: Identify the ways food can become contaminated, and find a solution using robots made entirely of the plastic building blocks.
“It has taught me that one, you have to solve problems, and you have to listen to other people,” said Andrea Beltran, an eighth-grader competing in her second Lego League Championship.
Beltran had worked with other students on her 14-member team to construct the robot itself. Other students were responsible for programming the robot to complete a series of simple tasks, while a third group conducted the research behind the class project.
"We love this program, the kids absolutely adore it, and they get to build,” said Jessica Winn, a teacher at Clark Middle School and the Falconbot’s coach. “They get to do all sorts of different things, it's a great experience for them to branch out from the normal, everyday-in-the-classroom type scenario."
The competition at South Anchorage High School is based on the STEM model: honing in on science, technology, engineering and math. Winn said the STEM fields form a perfect partnership with the students’ work in the classroom.
"In my classroom, we've just finished a physics unit, and I've got some kids who are like, ‘oh but Ms. Winn, we could do it this way because in robotics we did this, so this would make sense to do engineering this way,’ and then they're just tying it into the curriculum that they've seen."
The 53 teams from across Alaska and their robots are judged in four categories: research, teamwork, programming and performance.
Dave Patterson, a twelve-year volunteer with the Lego League program and master of ceremonies at Saturday’s competition, said the categories are a way for students to apply classroom skills to problems encountered in everyday life.
“By challenging them to solve a problem, they have to embrace the things they need to learn in school,” Patterson said, standing in the high school gym during a break in the competition, surrounded by dozens of students vying to show off their work. “Now they have an understanding of why they need to learn something."
He said the rewards are as far-reaching as the skills themselves. Last year, participants Lego robotics competitions received more than $14 million in scholarships to top science and engineering schools across the country
"These colleges understand that the students participating in these programs represent the entire package,” Patterson said. “They know how work together in teams, they know how to communicate, they know how to solve problems."
“Only the best is good enough:” The motto of the Lego Group, it’s something these students practice everyday.