Pella Chronicle

December 5, 2012

Local team solves real-world problems through research, robot design at FIRST® LEGO® Regional Tournament

The Chronicle

Pella — Can FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) teams improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged, and connected in their communities? In the 2012 SENIOR SOLUTIONSSM, over 200,000 children, ages 9 to 16, from more than 60 countries,  explored the topic of aging and how it may affect a person’s ability to maintain his or her lifestyle – solving issues like getting around, keeping in touch, or staying fit.

 SENIOR SOLUTIONSSM offers FLL teams the opportunity to gain a new understanding and respect for the process of getting older and the challenges that come with it, but also the benefits that come with it.  

FIRST® LEGO® League students from around the nation schools have spent the first semester of the school year tackling an ambitious challenge: to create an innovative solution—one that makes life better by improving something that already exists, using something that exists in a new way, or inventing something totally new.

On Saturday, December 1, 2012,  at the Science Center of Iowa, Des Moines, teams of children guided by their volunteer coaches, demonstrated their problem-solving skills, creative thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship, and sense of community. Among the participants were eight members of FLL Team from Pella, also known as  “Team Mustached Squid Chasers.” Team members consisted of Caitlyn Fank, Garrett Johnson, Gavin Klein, Isaiah Martin, Elizabeth Sales, Adam Smart and Christian Williams.  Coaches were Pella Community School teacher Mary Klein and Pella Corporation engineer, Nick Koren.  They were sponsored by PEERS (Partnership for Engineering Educational Resources for Schools). Koren shared, “The PEERS mission is to provide opportunities to learn about the fun and rewarding profession of engineering. This program assists in preparing students for a successful career by helping  develop engineering-related skills.”

Team Mustached Squid Chasers selected Senior Partners from Pella Manor.  Nancine Hugen and Erma Tuinstra shared their homes and their hearts to assist the team.  Also, Central College student, Libby Herriot, organized and scheduled visits for the team.  The team also interviewed Dr. Mark Johnson, professor of computer science at Central College.  He taught members of the team information about technology, how to create an app, and the future of smartphones and computers.  The team designed a prototype app called “Blindcited” to record oral history similar to that of Story Corps app.  

FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) is an international program for 9 to 16 year-old children (9 to 14 in the U.S. and Canada) created in a partnership between FIRST and The LEGO Group in 1998 to get children excited about science and technology – and teach them valuable employment and life skills. Children work alongside adult mentors to design, build, and program autonomous robots and create an innovative solution to a problem as part of their research project. The competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments. Like any other organized “sport,” teams also fundraise, create a team identity, and go on field trips.

The FLL competition was judged in four areas: project presentation; robot performance; technical design and programming of the robot; and teamwork, with a consideration of the FLL Core Values. The highest honor went to the team that is the most rounded in these areas and best exemplifies the spirit and values of the program. Iowa State University College of Engineering will again host the Iowa FLL Championship on January 19, 2013.

“Through the SENIOR SOLUTIONS Challenge, these kids developed a new appreciation for seniors and be a little more understanding of restraints that they might have and, as a result, have a greater connection with them”, shared Coach Mary Klein.  

 “Iowa is leading the country in fully enabling STEM education,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST founder and President of DEKA Research & Development Corporation. “The proven formula of utilizing hands-on learning programs to spark math and science education in the classroom places Iowa squarely in the position of being a leader and a model for the entire nation.”