Wayne America

Area youth are solving tomorrow’s challenges with Lego’s

The Aquabots First Lego League team include (front) Carlyle Young, Dean Young, Arianna Mulhair, Amelia Legler, (back) coaches Erin Palu and Ashley Mulhair. Not pictured is Summer Palu. (Photo by Michael Carnes)

Today’s adults can remember playing with Lego’s as a kid, building everything from towers to houses and cars.

Today’s youth are taking Lego building to a whole new level, and challenging themselves to provide solutions for real-world issues, as part of the First Lego League, a worldwide competition that involves children competing on teams from 80 countries all over the world.

Two of those teams are working with Legos here in Wayne through the Wayne County 4-H program. The five-person Aquabots team is coached by Erin Palu and Ashley Mulhair, while the seven-person [Insert Team Name Here] team (no, we didn’t forget to include the name . . . that’s their real name, folks) is led by coaches Matt Wachter, Todd Barner, Jeff Piper and Jessie Piper.

First Lego League is an international organization of children, ages 9-14, from all over the world who use Lego’s and Lego technology to provide solutions to a challenge that is laid out for them each year. The teams use Lego’s and robots to provide solutions to a challenge based on a certain scientific theme.

Each challenge consists of three parts — a robot game, the project and core values. Each team can have up to 10 members and at least two adult coaches, and they participate by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (robot game), developing a solution to a problem they have identified (project) and are guided by FIRST Lego League core values, which include discovery, teamwork and gracious professionalism.

The [Insert Team Name Here] team is one of Wayne’s First Lego League teams, including (front) Jake Barner, Harrison Collier, Ethan Bohnert, (middle) Eli Barner, Liam Wachter, Jace Piper, Ruben Vega, (back) coaches Todd Barner, Jeff Piper and Matt Wachter. Not pictured is Jessie Piper. (Contributed photo)

This year’s theme centers around hydro dynamics, and the Aquabots team is trying to find a way to keep herbicides and pesticides used by farmers from going into lakes and streams.

Fifth-grader Arianna Mulhair, one of the Aquabots team members, said the group’s plans include putting certain plants on the edges of rivers and streams, including goldenrod and day lilies, to help absorb the chemicals.

The team is also working to build and program a robot that will help them demonstrate their project goals.

“I like building the robots and making the missions,” Mulhair’s teammate and classmate, Amelia Legler, added.

Ruben Vega, a freshman at Wayne High School, is the elder statesman of the kids participating in Lego League and is part of the [Insert Team Name Here] team. He was on a team that earned a trip to state competition last year and enjoys putting it all together.

“It’s fun to work with some of the younger kids, and we’ve been able to use some of the techniques we used to make a robot last year and try to make this year’s robot a little leaner and not as top-heavy,” he said.

The groups finished up their presentations, robots and missions in time for regional competition that will take place Saturday at South Sioux City Middle School. The top team advances to state competition later this month at the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Museum near Ashland, and the top two teams there will compete in either national or international competition later this school year.

This is the fifth year that Wayne teams have participated in the Lego Legaue competition, and Wayne has had a team advance to state each year. Both teams are hoping to continue that tradition of success and are excited to see how their projects stack up this weekend.


(EDITOR’S NOTE — After this story appeared, the [Insert Team Name Here] Wayne First Lego League team won their way to state competition on Feb. 17 after Saturday's qualifier in South Sioux City. They won the Global Innovation Award Nomination and will present their project idea at state for this specific award on a state level. They will also compete in the robot games, robot presentation, core values presentation, and project presentation. Their robot placed fourth out of sixteen teams on Saturday. They are the team in black T-shirts, pictured along with the AquaBots team that also competed on Saturday. Congratulations!)