Janesville54.9°

Boys see Legos as technology, not toys

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GINA R. HEINE
November 8, 2008
— Legos are way more than meets the eye.

They can move.


They can be a robot.


They can become a world that envelops 10 Evansville boys.


“I just thought they were, like, sets,” Jordan Martinson, 9, said.


“I thought it was just build it and then push it,” Leif Klossner, 9, said.


But the members of the Evansville Lego Lords have found the colorful building pieces and their robot can sequester carbon dioxide, lift a floodgate and raise a home in a flood plain—all on their 4-by-8-foot game board.


The team spent 10 weeks preparing for today’s regional competition in Madison against about 24 other teams in the FIRST Lego League, a global program created to get kids excited about science and technology.


This is the first year Evansville has fielded a team, which consists of 10 students in grades 4 to 8, coach Cecile David said.


The league’s annual challenge—this year’s theme is “Climate Connections”—has two parts, a research project/presentation and a robot game.


At the tournament, robots complete missions to gain points. As they practiced Friday afternoon, they cheered their robot’s successes and groaned at its miscues in the living room of coach Joel Petersen.


“In robotics, timing is everything,” one teammate said to another.


In Madison today, the boys were to tell judges about their project examining how climate change affects Evansville. The team focused on how far fruits and vegetables travel to get to the local grocery store and researched how much carbon dioxide is released annually from the city’s large number of commuters.


The boys interviewed the produce manager at Piggly Wiggly, did a survey of how far fruits and vegetables are hauled and toured a local organic, community-supported farm. They also met with Mayor Sandy Decker and interviewed other experts to learn about city efforts to improve public transportation.


Their solutions:


-- The city should have a commuter coordinator to match residents with carpools.


-- People should buy local, and a community greenhouse should be built to cut food transportation and grow food items that can’t survive in Wisconsin’s outdoor growing season.


David hopes her team inspires more Rock County schools to start teams so UW-Rock County could host a regional tournament next year.


Team members already are looking forward to next year.


Ian Janssen Eager, who turned 10 today, was a builder this year but is learning to be a programmer for next year.


“I’ve learned a lot about robotics, and how they never work on the first try,” he said. “Patience is valuable in robotics.”


And when Ian grows up?


“I plan on being an inventor, so I might invent a few robots … (and) the stuff that people have been wanting to do for centuries—time machines, flying cars.”


Evansville Lego Lords

The fourth- to eighth-grade team members are Billy Petersen, Clark Cybart-Fuson, Alex Schemm, Alex Diebold, Austin Culbertson, Ian Janssen Eager, Leif Klossner, Joshua Guzman, Jordan Martinson and Bowen Brunner.



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