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Tackling a LEGO League challenge

Published January 2, 2013 2:03 pm

Competition • Student will design a robot to aid a "senior partner" with daily tasks.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Layton • Behind a classroom door, three teenage boys sit around a waist-high table working with LEGOs.

These kids aren't just playing with the tiny building blocks, they are strategizing. Their mission is to win the state LEGO robotic competition.

The students, along with their coach Kevin Bongiovanni, make up Layton Junior High School's robotics club. Students meet every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours after school to build their LEGO structures, program the robotics and map out their course.

They are preparing to compete in this year's First LEGO League competition, which is designed for 9- to 14-year-olds as way to get them excited about science and technology.

Each year, the competition involves an assigned challenge based on a real-world scientific topic and participants are assigned a goal. This year is the Senior Solutions Challenge and the goal is to identify a challenge for seniors and come up with a solution.

Bongiovanni and his team of nine students will participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field.

Because this year's theme is seniors, the computer field is designed with senior task such as moving medicine bottles, working with service animals, quilting, playing a game of bowling, turning off a stove and performing strength and cardiovascular exercises.

All tasks are carried out on the table top playing field by robotic LEGOs.

Working with the LEGOs and computers teaches the students a variety of skills.

"I was recruited to the club because I am a good builder" said Matthew Bennett, a seventh grader. "I am learning programming and graphical language."

Bongiovanni teaches club members computer programming and mechanical engineering programming skills.

"It's all about innovation," Bongiovanni said.

In addition to the building and computer aspect of competition, the teams are required to provide a project document. The project document involves students working with a "senior partner." To gain insight into problems faced by seniors, the club members went to a local senior living facility and interviewed a resident they call Elizabeth who became their partner.

"She said pretty much everything breaks and hurts and that she has problems driving. She has lost feeling in her feet. That's a problem we identified so we put it on our board as something to do more research on," said Bongiovanni.

Another issue students identified is that residents at the facility like to keep the doors to their rooms open, but doing so is considered a fire hazard.

The club will identify the problem they want to research, come up with solutions and present them in paper format for judging.

During the actual robotic competition and their presentation, all teams are expected to demonstrate First LEGO League Core Values, which include working as team, learning together, honoring the spirit of friendly competition, sharing their experiences with others and displaying gracious professionalism in all they do.

Seventh-grader Andrew Norton had only one word to describe they LEGO club: "Fun!"

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