Thursday, Jun 20, 2019

Lego leads students to state event

Students from Harvard Junior High School qualified for the First Lego League state robotic competition to be held in February. Pictured, from left, are: Abbigal Mullins, Shaila Ortiz, Holly Kruckenberg, Catherine Austin, Austin Gratz and Nick Pawelski. Not pictured: Avery Harvey, Zach Bokowy, Naomi Mijia and Marty Krazinski. COURTESY PHOTO

Several students in Harvard Junior High School teacher Mimi Book’s eighth-grade gifted class will head to the First Lego League state robotics competition in February.

The junior high school’s eighth-grade team qualified for the state competition Dec. 7 after taking second place in the First Lego League Robotic Qualifier, where 15 teams from around the county competed in Harvard. The school’s seventh-grade team took seventh place, and the sixth-grade team took fourth.

The First Lego League is a robotics program geared toward young people ages 9 through 16. It’s a program designed, as the FLL website states, to “get children excited about science and technology and teach them valuable employment and life skills.”

The FLL program often begins in a classroom setting. Teams of up to 10 students work together to create an autonomous robot using a Lego robotics set to score points on a thematic playing surface. As an additional part of the program, students are expected to come up with creative solutions to world problems such as hunger or natural disasters and present on such subjects. The program consists of three basic elements – the robot game, the project/presentation and student understanding/implementation of FLL core values. Students on each team also work on fundraising projects and participate in field trips.

At the upcoming state competition, 60 teams from around Illinois will compete. The team that wins the state round will go to nationals, and the team that wins nationals will head to the international competition.

Book said the theme of the program this year is “nature.” Her class will discuss the topic of blizzards during their presentation.

Student Austin Gratz, now in his third year of the program, said he is excited about the opportunity to head to the state tournament.

“I’ve always been intrigued with robots. We’ve worked really hard the last two years, and we didn’t make it [to state],” he said. “We are really excited because it’s our last year in the program.”

His classmate Avery Harvey agreed.

When asked why she believed the program is important for students, she said “[The FLL] gives students a chance to expand their mind to learn different things, do fun stuff and work with people to solve different problems.”

Book said her students deserve to participate in the state competition, and she is very excited for them.

“The program teaches a lot of engineering and problem-solving skills,” she said. “It is probably the most exciting thing I teach. The students really enjoy the program and what it offers.”

The First Lego League state robotics competition will take place beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 8, at Forest View Educational Center, 2121 S. Goebbert Road, Arlington Heights.

The public is welcome to attend.

For information, visit