South Berwick Students use Legos to Show off Science Skills

seacoast lego 1

April 14. 2015 4:53PM

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — Four teams of nascent scientists took the day off from reading, writing and arithmetic Tuesday to show off their automated Lego creations.

Seth Goodwin and Ella Holland make sure the elevator is working on their Lego model library at Central School in South Berwick, Maine. Four teams built models for a Junior FIRST LEGO League showcase Tuesday.seacoastlego 2Photo by Ralph Morang

By Ralph Morang

The teams of third-grade students, and some second-graders, at Central School made models of a library, an aquarium, a planetarium and a zoo, all animated with electronic sensors, lights and motors controlled by laptop computers.

Team Skeleton Blenders (they all named themselves) built a model planetarium. Students Liam Belcourt and Gus Darling were tweaking the operation of the computer-controlled door and spinning star projector Tuesday morning before fellow students were due to view all the projects in the gymnasium.

At the next table, Team Lego Workers was making sure the working elevator in its model library was operational. Seth Goodwin had a Lego person at the library’s water fountain.

Team Tiger Zombies had created a zoo. Team member Ethan Carr pointed out the fish, turtle and pig on display. The computer provided a background of bird calls.

Team Turtle Breath built an aquarium with automated fish feeder and water sounds. Member Lukas Flynn held the accompanying “Show Me” poster for viewers to read.

Teachers Kathleen McDonnell and Lyn Dorr-Garrity ran the show.

“They just want to have fun,” McDonnell said. “Having the computer takes it to a higher level.”

Each team studied its topic for three weeks and met either after school or in the evening with volunteer coaches to build the projects. For example, Team Lego Workers (the library model) consulted the school librarian, Michelle Jones. While members of the other teams may have previously visited an aquarium, planetarium or zoo, most of their research was done with books on the Internet.

Teams used simple machines like pulleys, levers and inclined planes in their models.

Lego and FIRST sponsors the program, the Junior FIRST LEGO League. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Guided by adult coaches, each team receives a kit of Legos, instructions and software and uses research, teamwork and imagination to construct the models. Volunteer parent John Wiegert wrote a grant and applied to the Marshwood Education Foundation for funding the kits.

School Principal Nina D’Aran said the program is a showcase, not a contest. In grades four through eight, students can participate in the FIRST LEGO League to build LEGO-based robots and participate in tournaments. FIRST is a nonprofit organization founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

The coaches were, for Team Skelton Blenders (planetarium), Matt Holland and Brock Gilbertson; for Team LEGO Workers (library), Kathleen McDonnell and Lyn Dorr-Garrity; for Team Zombie Tiger (zoo), Gary Grogg and John Wiegert; and for Team Turtle Breath (aquarium), Tonya Fitzgerald and Daytes Garvin. Team T-shirts were donated by LTC Partners of Newington.

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