LETTS, Iowa—For the members of the Louisa-Muscatine FIRST Lego League team, spending a weekend playing together has never yielded such sweet results. The eight-member team earned the second-place core value award and showed off their engineering skills in a series of fun play themed competitions.
For this year’s challenges, L&M’s Lego team, which consists of fifth through eighth grade students, designed a robot capable of completing several tasks as well as developing an app to encourage families to play together by exercising as a group. When the students came up with the idea of creating an app, their supervisor, Tenneil Register, put them in touch with Abigail Schrader, a former teacher who now works as a developer at Apple. Schrader discussed the process of coding an app with them, as well as the cost, which would come to about $6,000 overall.
Knowing they did not have $6,000 in their budget, the students reached out to Clever Coding, where they got in connected with a student coder, Lance Moon, who happily took on their project at a lower cost to help him gain experience and build his portfolio. Their collaboration resulted in the Made to Play app.
As students continued to work on their app and prepare for their competitions, they worked with the L&M Junior-Senior High School’s marketing class and Jason Miller at the Muscatine Community Y as well to make sure they had thoroughly prepared and that they had made their app as user-friendly and effective as possible. “With each group of professionals, they learned different things, and that’s what got them to state,” explained Register. “For sure the best part of this is their real life skills,” she added.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, all FIRST Lego Challenge competitions have taken place online this year. Though students did not have the opportunity to travel to other schools and meet other Lego teams, students did find some benefits to the new format. As Madi Smith explained, “it was different because we sent in a video, but it was better because you could shoot the video again and again until you got it perfect.”
Through their videos, students showed how their robot and their app met the requirements of each contest in the state competition, including the robot competition, robot design, core values, and innovative problem solving. The videos also highlighted how students lived up to the FIRST Lego Challenge core values of discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork, and fun. Based on the attitudes the students displayed in all the materials they submitted, they received the second-place core values award.
Currently, the L&M Lego team awaits additional information on any future competitions they will qualify for. However, Register already feels quite pleased with the progress her students have made, as no previous team has made it to the state level before. “For them to have made it to state, I was proud,” she said. “To get second in state in core values, which is why we do this, was overwhelming.”