“Savage Sushi… We’re on a Roll!” — This is what the clever group of 10 4th through 8th graders wrote on the board at the start of a recent LEGO® League session. Our team, “Savage Sushi,” meets Thursdays after school for an hour that flies way quicker than any of us can imagine. I enjoy coaching this group of fearless engineers as we attempt to build and program the robot to accomplish missions in the Robot Game and design a solution to a problem in the human water cycle, all the while, remaining true to core values coined by FIRST LEGO® League.

When you hear “LEGO® League,” you likely think of youngsters building and playing with LEGO® sets… but this group is so much more!  The first part of our LEGO® League season is spent building our board, a diverse array of water infrastructure stations which fits on a 4-by-8-foot plywood frame. At this time, I also present 18 missions — ranging from pipe removal, to making a flower rise by adding “big water” to its base, to making fire drop by pushing a fire truck against a lever on a burning house.

Following the directions to build the base is the easy part… the more challenging engineering task of programming the robot to accomplish these missions is next. Try, test, revise. Try, test, revise! Our engineers experience this process while altering their program in the LEGO® Mindstorms software. While programming the robot is an enjoyable challenge, process is most important — the same process that engineers and scientists use as they attempt to tackle real problem solving in their respective fields.

Each year, there is a different theme, with different missions and a different project. This year’s theme is “Hydrodynamics,” and the project challenge is to “improve the way people find, transport, use or dispose of water.” We have had some wonderful brainstorming sessions at which students take to the dry erase board and start talking and sketching out their ideas. After much exchange and weighing of ideas, we finally settled on the focus of our project — filtering poor-quality water to create water that is drinkable. Balancing innovative thinking, prior knowledge, and industry-expert feedback, our students are working to finalize the structure of our solution prior to our competition in February.

While LEGO® League offers a fun competition with programing a LEGO® robot, it goes beyond that in helping to build skills essential to good teamwork. With all we do, we aim to be true to the FIRST LEGO® League’s Core Values, most notably, displaying “Gracious Professionalism” and “Cooperation” in the spirit of friendly competition. These are the skills that will make our students well-prepared for the challenges they will meet as they enter a workplace, where being a contributing member of a team is as valuable as proposing innovative designs to complex problems. LEGO® League embraces these challenges in an enjoyable manner that feels like play.

I enjoy advising this group because I believe it is a fun way to teach skills that will help them be strong team members and problem solvers in the real world. I look forward to seeing what missions we accomplish before our competition, but am even more excited about what these students will go on to create in the future teams they support!

Learn more about Harrisburg Academy on our school website.

Source: FIRST Lego League 2017/2018 Challenge Guide – https://firstinspiresst01.blob.core.windows.net/fll/hydro-dynamics-challenge-guide-a4.pdf