Building STEM: Brick by Brick

Submitted by Heather Brooks and Lauri Leary
Tatnall Fifth Graders are putting the finishing touches on their robot programs and presentations for an upcoming LEGO League competition!  This is the inaugural season of LEGO League in the Lower School, which is sponsoring four teams in one of Delaware’s qualifying events on Saturday, January 25th. What is special about Tatnall’s teams is that every Fifth Grade student is participating on one of them!  

As part of the STEM Curriculum, LEGO League offers an opportunity to bring science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) together in an integrated and fun way. Students experience hands-on problem solving in a real-world themed challenge. This year’s challenge, “City Shaper,” requires teams to identify a problem with a public space in their community and design a solution. Our 5th graders will present their innovative ideas to judges at the competition. To prepare for their presentations, students researched issues in the Wilmington area. They reached out to experts in the field and interviewed Mrs. Megan McGlinchey, Executive Director of the Riverfront Development Corporation of Delaware to talk about their innovation ideas for the Wilmington Riverfront.

One of the students’ favorite parts of the project is programming the LEGO EV3 robots to complete as many missions as possible in a 2.5 minute time period. There are 14 missions that are part of the official board.  Each mission had to first be built by the students, who read online manuals with schematic directions. Then students used trial and error strategies to program the robots to complete tasks, taking note of which strategies worked and which didn’t. Sometimes, a mission could only be completed by inventing special LEGO features to add to the robot’s frame.

To pull their presentations together, students used many of the Google Suite features on their Chromebooks. They had to establish an email protocol, keep track of ever-changing documents through their shared Drives, and create slideshows. Some teams used the Lower School Green Screen Room and an iPad app to create customized photos for their presentation boards. Writing and discussion were also featured skills, as students wrote summaries, captions, and scripts for their presentations.  

LEGO League, though, captures more than just academic skills. It is based on a set of six core values: discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork, and fun. In fact, teams are evaluated on the level they embody and live these values during the competition. Throughout the twelve weeks of the project, students found ways to settle disagreements, find consensus, encourage each other, and stick to a schedule.  

The Tatnall teams were the youngest to participate and competed against local middle school club teams. Out of the various events at the qualifier, team Raptors won second place in the Core Values competition and team Leg Godts won first place the Innovative Project competition. Both of these teams will advance to the Delaware State Competition in March.

Nerd Herd: Jiya Amin, Charles Davis, Kaleb Kain, Clare Minihan, Liv Lefkon, and Beckett Chipman
Hornet Architects: Sophia Sirotinin-Remmel, Naima Prince, Peyton Flowers, Owen Mrozinski, Randy Betz, and Sean Kennedy
Leg Godts (Danish for “plays well”): Josh Fung, Nina DeVaughn, Henry Boswell, Connor Morris, and Madison Kuhner
Raptors: Tate Fontanazza, Seamus Howard, Audrey Hughes, Brett Greene, Milan Miller, and Chase McGinley