OTTUMWA — Lego League is a whole lot more than playing with plastic bricks.
“There’s three aspects to Lego: there’s your skit, or how you shared your information, the robot table, and a teamwork activity,” said Madilyn Greene, an eighth-grader at Evans Middle School. “All nine of us need to work together well, and obviously we’re all nine very different people. So we’re going to have disagreements, but we always need to find a way to get through those and still work together collaboratively as a team.”
Greene is a member of Lego Team 792, “Fancy Plants.” Alongside the other team at Evans, 794 (“Museum Maestros”), the students have been getting ready for the next round of competition. Both teams qualified for regionals, which will be held at Indian Hills Dec. 14.
The competition has a different theme every year. This year, contestants were challenged to come up with a way to reuse an empty building in their town for the benefit of their community. Both teams came up with some creative solutions.
Team 792 used the Fidelity Savings Bank on Main Street as the basis for their hypothetical revitalization project. They devised a “hydroponics market,” a business that’s one-part hydroponics farm and one-part farmers market. Team 794 came up with a STEM-based children’s museum.
Apart from planning and researching their projects, every team is expected to present their project to the judges in the form of a skit. Both groups came up with their ideas after lots of arguing and compromise. Conflict resolution is one of the main skills students reported Lego League had taught them.
“Lego gives you challenges you’ll face later in the world, like people who are hard to work with,” said seventh-grader Carlos Jimenez.
“We’ve had arguments about what building, or what design we would like to have, but then we can come up with something that works together for both sides,” said Sylvie Monaghan, a seventh-grader.
Evans Middle School TAG coordinator Heidi Bradford said the research and skit-planning has taken most of the students’ time so far. However, the skit is only one of three things the teams will be judged on. They also have to complete a two-and-a-half minute series of challenges with a robot made from Legos and demonstrate their teamwork capabilities. They’ll have to be interviewed by a different panel of judges during each phase as well.
“Although we’re all friends, if we were to tell someone to quiet down, we might say ‘shut up,’ but not in a mean way,” said eighth-grader Kaden Potter. “But the judges don’t know that, and if they were to hear us say that to one of our teammates, we would get a penalty.”
This is the first year competing for many of the students, and some are nervous. Nevertheless, it’s clear things are starting to come together.
“They’re starting to gel and get things figured out,” Bradford said.
If the teams pass regionals, they’ll move on to the state competition, which will be held at Iowa State University during the first weekend of January.