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Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2015

Learning with Legos

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Christian Barr and Carter Anderson make final adjustments to Team BroncoCrabs Lego League project at the season-end event Tuesday night.
(Photo by Randy M. Cauthron) [Order this photo]
STEM coordinator impressed with league's approach

Elementary student participants in the Spencer Kidnetic Energy 4-H Club Lego League completed their season Tuesday night with a special project presentation in the ICN room at the Spencer Public Library.

Local judges listened to the young builders as they explained their team projects designed with a focus on natural disaster prevention and rescue in mind.

Team LegoTech's project focused on a scenario involving a tsunami. Each project had to include a moving part and a simple machine.
(Photo by Randy M. Cauthron)
Kari Webb, Northwest Iowa STEM regional manager, participated as one of the program's judges.

"For me, the defining moment was listening to the children articulate very clearly what they had learned as far as collaboration, problem solving, thinking," Webb said. "These are the skills Iowans need to have."

She continued, "The skills gap that many employers in Iowa identify is students that have the initiative to see a problem and fix it; to work for a positive solution when a problem arises. A program like Lego League is used to help develop those skills at a really young age."

The two teams -- Team BroncoCrabs and Team LegoTech -- comprised of up to six young people, learned about multiple natural disasters through a variety of educational techniques including guest speakers, presentations and field trips over the past eight weeks.

"The challenge at the beginning of the season is to learn about the natural disasters," Jill Barr, the club leader and parent volunteer, explained. "They had to research all types and then choose one to focus on."

Once the team made their selection they had to create, using Legos, a scenario involving the specific natural disaster.

"In their disaster model, they had to prepare before, during or after. And each had to have a moving part and a simple machine," Barr said.

Team BroncoCrabs chose a volcano eruption and Team LegoTech focused on tsunamis.

"I was very impressed with the way the students made the connection between the Legos they were working with and the real life problem they were trying to solve," Webb said. "What does an engineer do? They use machinery or human ingenuity to solve a problem or make human lives better."

She added, "The take-home -- what impressed me the most is the students were using engineering design processes without even realizing it."

"One of the core values of the program is the kids do all the work," Barr said. "They have a lot to show."

The Kidnetic Energy 4-H Club is Spencer's Junior FIRST Lego League. It is comprised of 11 children ages 6-9.

"I have not directly participated in a Junior FIRST Lego League event before. I think it's neat Jill is working as a parent volunteer to bring it to the area," Webb said.

And Barr said her group isn't done yet.

"While their building season ends tonight, they will take the opportunity to see other presentations," she said.

The program was funded through contributions from Spencer Renaissance Initiative Grant, Spencer Jaycees, Eaton Corp. and CLICK Design.

Anyone interested in becoming a business or education partner with the Lego League may contact the Clay County ISU Extension Office at 262-2264.

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