Harnessing science with the local Lego League

Neah-Kah-Nie Middle School students took to the toys to showcase scientific innovation bent on a cause.

By Brian Cameron
Part of the I4IGM science program, NKN’s FIRST Lego League students ventured to George Fox University in order to compete in the regional tournament on Dec. 2. What they weren’t expecting from the event was the surprise of taking home the honor of achieving first place.
“Last year we had a hard time getting a score on the board for the robot game,” said Kathryn Harmon, Head Coach. “This year four strong teams brought their best to this competition, I am very proud of our students.”
The four teams in question all took different names themed on the types of projects they were engaging in. “The Purritos,” “Waterpipes,” “Hydro-Works,” and the “Droplets.” All of the teams involved got a chance to run their lego-constructed robots to complete missions on a performance field, they got to present their individual group research projects on a topic in the area of human water usage and showed off their competitive and cooperative teamwork skills in a CORE values activity.
“I thought robots and computers were pretty cool,” said Kimberly Kennard, 8th Grade. “I was originally in the I4IGM Tech Club and used those skills here in the Lego League.”
At the end of the day the “Droplets” became the first NKN team ever to qualify for a place at the state competition next month. Their project consists of an ultrasonic well monitoring system run by an Arduino computer which monitors the amount of water that remains in a well continuously. The teams future goals are set at making the system solar powered and to also create a mobile application that can tell you remotely how full the well actually is. According to Coach Harmon the project received eight exemplary scores out of a possible nine.
“I involved myself with the Lego League after watching my sister go through it,” said Caroline Barlow, 6th Grade. “I really liked getting into coding and plus they give us free shirts.”
When the announcement of their win came to them the “Droplets” were beside themselves with exuberant shock and excitement.
“I was really happy for the team,” said Carmela Camacho, 8th Grade. “I thought our chances were not that great but when they said we won I go really excited.”
From here on the team now goes to the next phase of competition which will be held at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. The “Droplets” are diligently working hard on coding and creating the mobile app and refining their robotic ability in order to offer stiff competition in hopes that they can go on to the national level competition. The event in Hillsboro is scheduled for Jan. 13.
“I am incredibly proud of our team, and none of us were expecting to go to state,” said Tonanzy Mendoza-Alvarado. “It was a long process, a lot of arguments, but at the end of the day we all did great. We pulled together as a team in spite of being very tired from a very long day.”