‘Spencer Inventors’ continue to build on success
Local Lego League 4-H Club will be represented at state tournament
Teams from the local Spencer Inventors 4-H Club have continued to find success in their annual FIRST Lego League tournaments. Three teams recently competed at the FLL Regional Tournament in Estherville and all three came back with accolades. Teams Delta and Sigma — an all-female team and an all-male team — scored high enough to qualify in the state tournament, and Team Pi received the trophy for “robot design” at the event. This marks the third straight year the club has appeared at the state Lego League competition, which challenges young people to be creative and utilize science to solve problems.
“Every year (in Lego League) there is a challenge having to do with a real world problem. ... This year is water,” coach Amanda Bare said. “They have to research a problem and come up with a solution to the problem they’ve identified. In addition to that, they have to design, build and program a robot using Legos. ...
“They build this robot, program it and compete on kind of like a playing field that’s the size of a sheet of plywood 4 feet by 8 feet, ... there’s a whole series of tasks that the robot can do, pushing things, pulling things, they revolve around the theme. ... When they release the (new Lego League) season with the (annual) problem, ... They have to completely design, build and program the robot every season.”
Lego Leagues and their clubs began organizing in 1998. Spencer’s first club was developed in 2011. The international program was created by nonprofit For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and Lego. Amy Forrette, Clay County associate director of youth programming at ISU Extension and Outreach, said the 4-H club was a way to promote STEM with young people in the community.
“4-H has agriculture roots, but we have expanded with newer project areas and clubs such as the Spencer Inventors which focuses more on STEM,” Forrette said. “Obviously there’s a huge push with STEM currently and this is an opportunity for kids that live in town to partake in 4-H.”
Bare said that the competitions and preparations promote skills such as problem solving and collaboration.
“The goal is to develop some critical thinking, presentation skills, ... they have a robot design judging, they go in front of judges to explain how they built their robots and how they programmed their robots,” Bare said. “(They) all kind of have the same general (operation): build something, learn about something, apply real world math and science, critical thinking, presentation skills all those area groups have to talk to the judges, ... you share what you learned, your challenges, the things that went wrong and there’s tournaments for all these groups too.”
Forrette suggested the knowledge and skills gained in the club are often passed on to younger children.
“I just see the kids how successful they’ve become and the knowledge that they have learned,” Forrette said. “We have ‘SpIn’ events throughout the year, a lot of those kids in Spencer Inventors come back and teach the young kids in Kinetic Energy, it’s nice to see the kids in Spencer Inventors share with the younger kids.”
The coach said team members are excited to compete in the state tournament, which will be conducted this weekend in Ames on the Iowa State University campus.
“It is a big deal, I think they’re really excited,” Bare said. “... This weekend it’s 60 teams for the day at ISU in their various engineering buildings so they have a chance to see a lot of the engineering (facilities) and see that kind of stuff. ... It’s a lot of fun, it’s a really exciting and frustrating ... day, sometimes the robot is just a disaster and that’s one of the “core values” things; sometimes everything (won’t) go the way you want it and how do you deal with that? That’s a big thing we encourage kids to deal with, when things go wrong, how do you fix it?”
Forrette was also excited for the club’s prospects at the tournament.
“(I know) they will rock it because they are very good,” Forrette said.