Remember playing with a Lego building set, or helping a child put together their very own masterpiece? I recall it as a fun, educational, quiet activity that could entertain my son for hours. I’m sure for many, Lego building is still just that, but for a group of 11 Woodlawn Middle School girls, it’s gone to a whole new level of building.
These girls were crowned the Illinois state champions of First Lego League (FLL) last weekend. According to one of their coaches, Laurie Haas, “The girls competed against 64 other teams that were the top finishers among the 288 Lego Robotics teams in Illinois. The event included building and programming robots to execute multiple missions and presenting a research project on food safety, which was the FLL program theme for this year.”
Called The Moovers, this group of girls is quite unique in that it is one of the few all girl teams. Typically, 80 to 85 percent of the FLL participants are boys and the girls are also on the younger side of the age bracket allowed to participate. Laurie says, “The Moovers got introduced to the world of Lego Robotics two years ago through a grant made by Motorola to the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Northwest Indiana to inspire interest in girls in the field of STEM (science, technology, engineering & math).”
This is not a Girl Scout project or function; anyone may enter: private groups, school groups or clubs. Laurie adds, “Teamwork is a key element of the competition. The girls met several times a week since the fall to design and program their robot as well as work on the research project. Supported by three volunteer coaches, they learned that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals, and that helping one another is the foundation of teamwork.” The other two coaches are Rhett Starr and Kevin O’Brien.
With food safety the theme for this year’s competition, the girls focused on Lysteria detection in milk. Does any one remember the recent Lysteria outbreak in cantaloupe that led to 18 eventual deaths? The Moovers are definitely keeping it current! “The girls consulted with the Vice President of Operations and the Lab Manager of a local milk producer and talked with a researcher at a large pharmaceutical lab to identify a simple, consumer-friendly detection tablet for milk.”
With their win in Illinois under their belts, the Moovers will be going to sunny Florida for the national competition this May. Also, they will be heading to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis where international teams from 46 countries come to showcase their robots and present their research projects on food safety.
The girls that comprise The Moovers had such mature, insightful and truly thoughtful things to say about this experience, I had to share them all. This is truly an amazing group of young girls.
Claire Haas: "It's really fun for me because it gives me a chance to excel! I'm not really crazy about science in school, but Lego Robotics makes those things fun!"
Anisha Rao: "If I never win anything else in my life, it won't matter, this was the best!"
Rachel McCoy: "In our group, we all have our own strengths that can help out the team and we respect each other’s contributions."
Isabel Lee: "Kids Do the Work” which is pretty much explained in the words ... we are the ones actually doing everything."
Katie Chiasson: "We didn't know about some of these things before and that they can be fun. Now that we do know about them, maybe we may go into a career in them in the future."
Veronia Sobhy: "We discovered that the information or things we learned in Lego Robotics is more important to gain that information or insight than about gaining it to win the competition or an award."
Alexandra Reuter: "I learned how to complete tasks quickly & efficiently."
Abby Starr: "We learned to respect other competitors and help them out whether we are winning or losing ... that's gracious professionalism!"
Allison Chen: "We love the way we work as a team and include everyone ... no matter what we do, everyone has a part."
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