Lego tournament inspires young minds to learn

Excitement stirred throughout Regents Hall as children ages 9 to 14 prepared their robots for action.

The robots, built entirely from Lego’s, competed in numerous tasks such as opening doors, tossing balls into goals and collecting rings for various points.

With the constant update of the scoreboard, the kids only grew more and more enthusiastic. “Look! We’re in 10th place,” screamed one student from the team The Five Musketeers. However, the Northern Kentucky Regional First Lego League tournament was much more than just a contest.

On Saturday, Dec. 6, 37 teams consisting of approximately eight students each gathered at NKU to present their robots.

Although, the robot’s design and performance in the tournament made up half of Saturday’s events, teams were also judged on core values like teamwork as well as separate projects in which they presented.

According to the coach of Mann Master Builders, Melody Manaugh, the robot design and performance, core values and the research projects were of equal importance.

“It is vital that they learn the basics of building and programming, but it is also just as important that they work together and create something that they are proud of,” explained Manaugh.

Teams were expected to extend their creativity into a research presentation as well. Tournament coordinator Beth Koch explained that this year’s research theme was learning and that each project must answer the question “How can we improve the way ___ learns to ___?”

“Students had to identify a learning audience and learning target. They also had to create an innovative solution and present it in a clever fashion to the judges,” Koch said.

Before the tournament, most teams spent at least one hour a week practicing. Michelle Kahmann, a mother of two students competing, explained how her kids had prepared for regionals.

“They practiced once a week until about a month ago, and then they bumped it up to two times a week,” Kahmann said. “It didn’t feel like work to them though, they viewed it as hanging out with their friends when actually they were learning about engineering and programming.”

The environment echoed Kahmann’s sentiment. Students channeled all of their energy into the tournament and the various science related activities. When they weren’t competing they were often cheering on other teams.

One student, Caleb from the team Stephen’s Stinging Legos, described what had made him decide to participate.

“It started with an electric circuit board a couple years ago,” Caleb stated. “I love scientific things like that and that is why I decided to move on to robots.”

Overall, as Koch explained this tournament promotes learning through engagement.

“They are actually in and up to their elbows in learning. If they drop a robot, they have to repair it. If something didn’t go the way they wanted, they have to change the programing,” explained Koch. “They are problem solving and thinking on their feet. They are walking around learning from other teams so that they can come up with ideas and ultimately improve.”

The Kentucky State First Lego League Tournament will be held at NKU on Feb. 7.