Marshalltown teams earn FIRST Lego League awards

Team “Nature’s Natural 9” from Lenihan Intermediate.

Team “Nature’s Natural 9” from Lenihan Intermediate.

FIRST Lego League teams from Lenihan Intermediate and Miller Middle schools competed at the regional competition Saturday, Dec. 7, with two teams earning awards.

The Lenihan team, “Nature’s Natural 9”, placed second for their innovative solution to this year’s topic, “Nature’s Fury”, which focuses on natural disasters. The seventh grade team, “Team Stormbot”, earned a second place finish in robot design. The eighth grade team, “Team S.M.A.R.T.”, also competed, and while they didn’t place had a strong showing in all categories.

In FIRST Lego League, students work to solve a real-world challenge. Students participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game), developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project), all guided by the FLL Core Values.

“Challenge topics are based on a global problem, for which students find a solution.  This year’s Challenge was Nature’s Fury. By designing the Challenges around such topics, participants are exposed to potential career paths within a chosen Challenge topic, in addition to solidifying the STEM principles that naturally come from participating in a robotics program. Team members also learn valuable life and employment skills, which will benefit them no matter which career path they choose.”

Extended Learning Program teachers Ann Jackson (Miller) and Kate Niedermann (Lenihan) used Lego League to connect ELP students with community members who served as mentors and coaches.  The Lego League teams benefited from assistance of community volunteers Karin Podhajsky, Frank Roessler, Annette Latwesen, Ricarda Drummer and James Rodgers. Roessler and Podhajsky are FLL veterans; each has helped coach Lego League for many years.  This was Drummer, Latwesen and Rodgers’ first year being directly involved with Lego League.  Drummer and Latwesen assisted the 5th /6th grade team in the development of their project, as well as the research and development of innovative design.  From her experience at Emerson, Latwesen helped Nature’s Natural 9 members learn more about the software and programming of the robots.  Rodgers, who is a Lead Web Developer at Fisher Controls, helped the eighth grade team design their robot and program several missions.

While preparing for competition, Lego Leaguers also heard from several guest experts.  Students were able to interview Kim Elder, Director of Marshall County Emergency Management; Mike Beck, Red Cross Volunteer; Jake Nicholson, Iowa Department of Homeland Security; and Chris Luhring, former Parkersburg Police Chief.