Ballard middle-schoolers have spent the first half of the school year preparing for a competition that’s now just two weeks away.
The two Ballard LEGO league teams are in the last few weeks of finalizing plans for the FIRST LEGO league competition, to be held Dec. 14, at Collins-Maxwell. This is the first year Ballard will have two teams entering the competition, due to the number of students interested in participating. Teams are limited to having 10 members, and this year 12 students make up Ballard’s teams. One team meets Monday and Wednesday nights after school and is coached by Anna Rohlfing and Alex Greig, while the other team meets Tuesday and Thursday nights and is coached by Ann Munson and Dave Carlin.
Ballard’s LEGO league program is a part of the Impact after-school program, sponsored by Youth and Shelter Services (YSS). Jenifer Kallio of YSS and leader of the after- school program, said they aim to provide positive learning experiences for students involved in the program.
For some of the Ballard participants, this is their first year being a part of the LEGO competition. For others, they have been a part of the teams since the school began participating three years ago.
“I like LEGOs. They’re fun to build with and you can make fun stuff out of them,” said Noah Wargo, a sixth-grader who is in his first year of being on the team.
Derrick Crecelius, a seventh-grader in his second year of participation, said he likes taking part because it is fun and he gets to learn new things. He even encouraged his friend, seventh-grader Reece Morgan, to join.
This year’s theme for the competition is Nature’s Fury, focusing on natural disasters. To go along with the theme, teams must program their robot to do different challenges while on a themed playing field. Ranen Couture, member of the Tuesday/Thursday night team, said the challenges include maneuvering the robot over a LEGO river, around a fallen LEGO tree and launching an airplane down a runway. Each challenge is worth a certain number of points, and teams have 2 1/2 minutes to complete all the challenges.
The teams must also come up with a presentation, or skit, that focuses on the theme. Josiah Kallio, member of the Monday/Wednesday night team, said his team’s skit will deal with an individual who has a watch that not only tells time, but also monitors the wearer’s heart rate and is able to use GPS to pinpoint where the wearer is located. They said this device could be useful in the event of a tornado.
Winners of the competition will move on to the next level, eventually making it to the state competition held at Iowa State University.
“Whether they progress to the next level or not, the experience they get in writing programs or building a robot is great for the kids,” Kallio said.
Monday and Wednesday team members:
Tuesday and Thursday team members: