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Learning with Legos

Luverne schools want to expand robotic offerings
Lead Summary
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Mavis Fodness

Luverne Middle School’s encore classes allow students to choose different exploratory classes that expand learning beyond the basic classroom lessons.
In the past five years, the Legos Mindstorms class has become a student favorite.
“It has been very popular and we offer it every quarter,” said Bill Thompson, the district’s graphic arts teacher.
Legos Mindstorms combines skills in problem solving, communication and career around robotics in a fun team activity.
Thompson and Middle School Principal Ryan Johnson have plans to expand the robotics program to an after-school activity. Ultimately, the duo would like to expand robotics to the high school level and compete in the Minnesota State High School League’s robotics program.
Expansion to the high school level will first start in the middle school by joining the FIRST Lego League. Membership to the Lego League allows a team or teams of students ages 9-14 to compete at a regional event.
Estimated cost for the first year membership is $1,600, including $736 stipend for a coach.
A grant application has been made to cover some of those costs, Thompson said.
Elementary school began Lego team this spring
About a dozen fourth- and fifth-graders have met this spring and summer as part of a local Lego robotics activity, but they are not members of the FIRST Lego League.
The elementary students were arranged in teams, and each team worked on programming a tabletop robot constructed from Legos to complete a different mission or task.
At the elementary level, the activity was designed to get students excited about science and technology.
4-H’ers already compete
in FIRST Lego League
The Rock County 4-H Program joined the FIRST Lego League five years ago, and teams been competing at regional competitions for the past four years.
FIRST stands For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and began as a project offering within Minnesota 4-H in 2011.
Local program coordinator Nancy Sandager said as a 4-H project offering, the program relies on adult volunteers as coaches, which has limited the project’s growth. For every 10 students, the league requires two adult coaches.
Currently Luverne’s Randy Berghorst is in his second year as coach. Jason Braucht of Beaver Creek is the second coach.
“It’s been a learning process,” Berghorst said Monday at 4-H’s Lego League kick-off meeting.
About 10 4-H’ers will form this year’s Rock’s Robotics Team and compete in the three Lego League elements. The elements are the challenge, a project and the robotics game. Each element is based on a single theme.
The 2015 theme is Trash Trek.
Teams are challenged to find ways to create less trash or repurpose items that would normally be taken to a landfill. Projects will be created and presented by the teams detailing the challenge.
The third element is the robotics game where participants build various obstacles out of Lego building blocks and program a robot (also constructed from Legos) to complete specific tasks called missions.
This year’s missions include the sorting of recyclables and waste materials and movement of various products to designated parts on the game mat.
Each element receives a score and the team with the highest points is eligible for national competition.
The Rock’s Robotics Team meets Saturdays from 1 to 3 p.m. at St. John Lutheran Church.

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