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Lego Legends take second, qualify for national competition

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By The Staff

The Lego Legends, a 4-H Lego robotics team comprised of 10 students ages 9-14 from Franklin, Anderson and Mercer counties, recently returned home with second highest honors from the Kentucky state First Lego League tournament. The tournament was held on the campus of Western Kentucky University on Jan. 14 and included 44 other qualifying teams.
According to the Lego Legends’ press release, “FLL is designed to get children excited about science and technology, and teach them valuable employment and life skills. Teams build a robot out of Lego and a Lego NXT computer brick. Then, they use the robot to complete tasks worth points on a standard table. This is called the robot competition and makes up 25 percent of a team’s score. The rest of the score comes from three other categories: robot design, core values and a team invention. The coaches and parents get to watch the robot game, but the team must present the rest to a panel of judges. The students must do all of the work with only guidance from their coaches. This year’s tournament theme was called ‘Food Factor’ so all categories revolved around the theme of food safety.”
“The robot game is probably the hardest part for our team,” 4-H Lego Legends coach Kelli Gowan said, “because the brick is so exact. It requires a type of programming these kids haven’t had to do yet.”
The top two teams from the state competition at Western Kentucky University qualified for the FLL North American Open Championships held in Florida and California. Gowan said she’s not surprised.
“If you asked me at the beginning of the year whether we could make it to nationals, I’d have said ‘no,’ but seeing how much this team has grown, I’m not surprised at all. The biggest concern now is how to get these kids to the competition in California.”
She says the variety of tasks her team has taken on has really grown this year and the level of success they’ve had with the invention and presentation of a real world problem and solution has surprised her. For their presentation, the Lego Legends invented a tool that would allow individuals, particularly fishermen, to measure mercury in fish.
”They required a lot of guidance in the beginning,” Gowan said. “It took a lot of leadership. At this stage, they’ve grown so much that they don’t need that. Leaders have emerged from within the team and they are able to follow their own direction without outside help.”
The Lego Legends team qualified to go to state tournament after competing against 24 other teams in the Mount Washington Regional tournament on Dec. 3, 2011. In that tournament, the team took top honors in the category of robot design and took second place over all.
Anyone wishing to sponsor or donate to the LEGO Legends California tournament fund can e-mail Coach Gowan at kelligsmail@gmail.com for more information.