Heritage LEGO team, the Activators, ready for first scrimmage

MADISON – The Activators, a LEGO team at Heritage Elementary School, is honing skills for their first scrimmage, while telling Madison to ‘get moving.’

Approximately 30 Alabama teams will compete online on Feb. 20 in the FLL (First LEGO League) program. Fewer competitors are participating, compared to pre-COVID-19 turnouts.

All in fifth grade, members of the Activators team are Harshtha Chander, Laya Gowder, Carson Forsyth, Grant Jauken, Zachary Johnson, Emily Lynn, Ishita Rajput and Eleri Sanders. Rachel Gibbs is their coach. Ariel Grimmett also mentors a LEGO team at Heritage.

“Students work together as a team to complete an innovation project and design, build and program an EV3 mindstorms robot,” Gibbs said.

In their innovation project, students are challenged to solve a real-world problem and to impact their community. In the robot portion, students code and program their robot to interact with LEGO models and complete missions on a large table course.

“The First program also teaches students to use collaborative skills (called the First Core Values) to grow as a team and work together to meet goals,” Gibbs said. This year, the challenge (and robot missions) revolves around the theme of encouraging community residents to lead active lifestyles.

Two or three judges evaluate each component. This year, Heritage will submit robot performance videos and share its work in a live judging session.

Students hope to see a more vigorous community, with family and friends coming together to enjoy our beautiful city, Gibbs said. Students will gauge their impact with scavenger hunts, along with ratings and feedback from participants in virtual scavenger hunts.

“After speaking with a professional and gathering feedback through a community-wide survey, the Activators team focused on lack of motivation. Our team used Google Forms to develop scavenger hunts for Dublin Park, Bradford Creek Greenway, Palmer Park and Bridge Street. Each scavenger hunt (has) fun clues to find locations and snap pictures,” Gibbs said.

After receiving city permission, the Activators placed large LEGO bricks for all hunts. Their game, “We Like to Move it, Madison,” is available at tinyurl.com/moveitmadison.

“I encourage everyone to try our virtual scavenger hunt games and ‘Move it Madison!’” Gibbs said.

Teams meet once or twice weekly after school on campus for the innovation project. Robot practice on weekends is off campus.

First LEGO League has challenge opportunities for all levels of students. At Heritage, fourth- and fifth-graders are eligible. To apply, students submit a written essay and gather teacher recommendations.

The state-level contest is slated for April.

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