School’s robot team ready for battle
Playing with LEGOs is a great way to learn about engineering. Just ask 10-year-old Justus Nielsen, one of 10 members of Grand Junction’s first FIRST LEGO League team.
“I get to hang out with my friends and learn new things. It’s not as boring as school,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen and the rest of his team, all fourth- or fifth-graders at New Emerson School, have been working this fall to build and program a remote control car-sized robot constructed with LEGO parts.
The robot is equipped with software, and students programmed codes to make the robot move in certain directions and perform specific tasks, such as hitting a lever or climbing over a LEGO bridge. FIRST LEGO League, an international robotics program for 9- to 16-year-old students, sent teams across the globe kits to assemble an obstacle course to practice various missions with their robots.
That practice will come in handy today when the New Emerson students, who go by the name Team TEN (Tomorrow’s Engineers Now), will make their robot perform about a dozen missions to earn points at their first competition: A district match at Glenwood Springs High School. Team TEN will square off against 15 other western Colorado teams. The competition’s winner will move on to a regional competition in Denver, whose winning team will compete at an international FIRST LEGO League championship in St. Louis.
New Emerson’s curriculum focuses on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, subjects, so having School District 51’s first LEGO robotics team at New Emerson is a natural fit, according to team mentor Amy Carlton, whose son Raleigh is on the team. Carlton started the team this year with engineer Chris Williams and his son, Kai Williams, who attends Palisade High School but is a member of the FIRST Robotics Team at Plateau Valley High School. Chris Williams said the team members at New Emerson will have an opportunity to compete for scholarships and build larger, more complex robots if they stick with the FIRST program through high school.
“Ultimately, these kids will leave high school having real-world engineering experience,” he said.
In addition to creating a robot, LEGO teams had to think of a solution to a real-world problem for senior citizens and will perform skits for judges outlining their solutions. Team TEN tackled housing cost issues and will propose a subdivision for people age 60 and older with 500- to 900-square-foot homes with energy efficient appliances and low utility costs, plus a community center, community garden and communal Smart car-sharing system.
Team TEN members have high hopes for their first competition today, but they’ve also enjoyed their work so far. Zoe Williams, Chris’ 11-year-old daughter, said she liked getting advice from team mentors but being able to do all of the hard work with her teammates.
Tatum Brown, 10, said she liked getting to concentrate on her favorite subject, math. John Wampler, 11, said he liked programming the robot because “you get to play on computers and it’s fun.”