Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

December 15, 2011

Lego Leaguers build talents

Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — Students from schools in the Glasgow district proved they can have fun while learning and competing.

Lego League teams from Glasgow Middle School, Highland and South Green elementaries demonstrated how to program robots, complete a research project, accomplish a leadership task and exhibit core values all while having a good time themselves and entertaining an audience of school board members and parents at the district’s central office on Monday night.

Kelly Oliver, supervisor of federal programs, teacher support and student initiatives, explained to board members what the students had just accomplished in their first Lego League regional competition in Bowling Green on Saturday.

“We had an amazing weekend,” she said. “These kids competed in four different areas in their first Lego League.”

One team, the Gadget Girls from South Green Elementary, took second place in the Robot Challenge finishing just a few seconds behind the winner. Another team, the Boiler Room Bots from Highland Elementary is advancing to state competition after winning the Core Value Award.

Gadget Girls and the Glasgow Gladiators from the middle school both demonstrated how they programmed Lego robots to move through a tabletop course achieving objectives such as capturing pieces and maneuvering around obstacles. Lego pieces representing bacteria, pizza, ice cream, corn and other items were collected by the robots.

“They have two and a half minutes to do everything they just described to you,” Oliver explained to the audience as they crowded around the table. “If they’re successful with each mission, they achieve points and the team who scores the most points wins the robot challenge.”

Each team was allowed to perform three times on the course with the two and a half minute limit every time. As the little robots with arms, gears and wheels moved around the course, onlookers watched intently to see if the machines would be able to grab a “rat” or harvest “corn” or any number of other tasks programmed into the robots.

Team members had to cooperate and talk to each other as they made adjustments to the robot’s commands after each run.

“Right now they’re demonstrating teamwork, using core values. They’re judged on how they are working together and communicating,” Oliver said.

After the first two teams demonstrated the robot challenge, the Bot Boys from South Green Elementary presented a research problem on how to deal with food contamination that they had completed. They had to come up with a solution or improve on an existing invention that could be implemented. Salmonella, a bacterium that is carried by poultry and humans, was the contaminant the team researched. Using a game show concept, they students explained how the illness is spread and the best way to prevent it.

“Wash your hands, people,” said game show host Caleb Jones during their skit.

The team also had to come up with a prototype dispenser for hand washing to combat the problem.

The Boiler Room Bots from Highland presented a skit concerning the presence of arsenic in apple juice and what can be done to make people aware of the health risks and remove the toxin from the juice. From pesticides sprayed on the fruit, arsenic is introduced into the apples, team members explained. They surmised from their research that a copper/zinc filter, which could be fitted in a regular pitcher, would remove the poisonous arsenic from the juice.

The group said they shared their results with local doctors and cafeteria staff at school.

After completing the presentation, one of the Highland team members, Amanda Lee, explained how they won the Core Value Award.

“Three judges sat at a table and they gave us a piece of paper and we went and discussed what to do. We had to go to a table and pick a card with an object on it. We had five minutes to make this object with our bodies and everyone in the group had to be involved,” she said.

The team decided on a motorcycle. As the students demonstrated on the floor how they had two people be wheels, one a seat, another a back fender, one a rider, one the handlebars and one a side car, Oliver explained why the exercise was important.

“While they’re doing this they are judged on how they are working together,” she said.

The crowd responded to the finished motorcycle with laughter and a round of applause.

“One of the core values we focus on the most is having fun,” Oliver said. “It’s apparent through the task this is a group that did have fun.”

Team members had to demonstrate core values such as supporting each other and creating win-win situations as well as displaying “gracious professional cooperation in everything we do” and learn together, the students said.

Oliver told board members the demonstrations were just a small part of the program and what it can teach the children.

“There’s so much more,” she said.

 The Lego League program engages children in playful and meaningful learning while helping them discover the fun in science and technology, according to information on Highland Elementary’s website.

The Boiler Room Bots will advance in January to the state competition at Diddle Arena on the campus of Western Kentucky University.