Students at Harvest Ridge Elementary brought back the gold recently, after representing the Francis Howell School District (FHSD) at the First Lego League Junior Robotics Competition on March 11 at St. Joseph Hospital and March 26 at Wren Hollow Elementary. FHSD middle and high schools participate in coding activities and competitions, but this is the first time in FHSD history that an elementary school competed in the coding competition. The First Lego League Junior program was created to introduce STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) concepts to students from kindergarten through fourth grade with a brand they already know and love – LEGO. Students had the chance to take the driver’s seat and build functional robots with LEGOs, and program them to carry out assigned tasks.
“We are really proud to have our First LEGO League Junior Robotics teams come back from their competition with awards,” said gifted teacher Cheryl Gerloff. “None of this could have happened without our parents, PTO, and the enthusiasm of our students. This competition is a stepping stone for them to the middle and high school programs.”
The LEGO League’s theme this year is “Creature Craze,” and students were challenged to bring awareness to a real-world issue, the decline of honeybees. They built models that consisted of a bee that gathered honey, and a conveyor belt that transported it to a beekeeper. Students were also required to create a “Show Me” poster which illustrated their process and how they created their robot, their research on the decline of honeybees, and all of the steps necessary to prepare for their presentation.
It’s a piece of cake, according to first grader Dhru Verde. “It’s easy! All you do is move the blocks on the program to make it work how you would like for it to work.”
Each grade level in the robotics club was a different team that consisted of up to six students. The first grade team, “The Lego Game,” was presented with the “Funtastic Achievers” award for their contagious, positive attitude and support for their peers. The second grade team, “The Dark Robots,” received the “Natural Polymaths” award for their many talents and broad interests. The third grade team, “The Lego Warriors,” received the “Master Programmer” award for thinking like a robot and creatively using programming software to bring their model to life. Last, but certainly not least, the fourth grade team “The Macaroni’s,” received the “Explosive Ideas” award because they used innovative ideas to create a fact-filled and eye-catching Show Me project.
“We wanted to bring STEM to our students. We were overwhelmed with the number of responses that we had received when we opened the robotics club last year as a before-school program,” said Principal Dr. Natalie DeWeese. “We hope to do this again next year, gain more PTO funding to update the software needed for programming, and get even more parents involved.”