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Toys become educational tool
WIN 20151015 180232
Participants review this year's Lego League game board to form a strategy for the regional competition later this month in Madison. Students will use autonomous robots to solve trash-related problems and score points for their teams. - photo by Submitted Photo

CUBA CITY—Those popular little building blocks—Legos—are playing a key role in a middle school club at Cuba City.

The Lego League formed for the first time this fall for Cuba City fourth through eighth graders interested in science technology. John Deere awarded Cuba City Elementary and Middle School a grant to begin a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science Technology) Lego League (FLL). The 18 Cuba City students, divided into two teams, will use science and technology to complete a challenge and compete against other teams.

FLL was founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. FLL incorporates core values, robot gaming and projects as its fundamental elements that distinguish the program from others.

Each year FLL has a theme, and this year’s theme is Trash Trek. For the team project, students must identify a problem with the way trash is made and handled, design an innovative solution to the problem selected and share the problem and solution with others.

Middle school math teacher Amy Cox is coaching the group along with parent volunteers Don Kruger, Cody Austin and Jeff Brandt. Cox said Cuba City’s two teams took a field trip to Faherty’s Incorporated in Platteville on Oct. 20 to tour the facility and ask questions regarding their ideas for the project.

“For the robot game, students are to replicate the FLL game board by creating obstacle courses with Legos,” Cox said. “With their obstacle courses, students must design and program a robot to complete the challenges at each obstacle.”

In FLL, the children do the work, which includes program an autonomous robot (using the LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot set) to score points on a thematic playing surface, create innovative solutions to a problem, all while being guided by the FLL core values. These three elements—the robot game, project and FLL core values—make up the yearly challenge. Teams also fundraise, create a team identity and talk to experts in the field.

Cox said the Cuba City team meets Thursdays from 5:30-7 p.m. at the school. They will be attending a regional competition in November in Madison. If students perform well at regional, they could move on to sectionals and then state.

“Cuba City Elementary and Middle School appreciates the generous grant from John Deere to cover the registration fees, robots and Legos for both teams,” Cox said. “Menard’s also sponsored some materials for the game boards.”

Past Challenges have been based on topics such as nanotechnology, climate, quality of life for the handicapped population and transportation. By designing challenges around such topics, participants are exposed to potential career paths within a chosen challenge topic, in addition to solidifying the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) principles that naturally come from participating in the program. Team members also learn valuable life and employment skills which will benefit them no matter which career path they choose.

With more than 25,000 teams in approximately 80 countries, FLL is constantly expanding. If you are interested in helping create a formal FLL presence in your area by becoming a FIRST LEGO League Partner, contact