PIQUA — Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders keen to put their creative and scientific brainpower to good use now have an outlet in their school’s new LEGO Club.
The program, which premiered this year at Piqua Central Intermediate School, has attracted approximately 50 students.
“We opened it to everybody who wanted to come,” said instructor Veronica Gaier.
Every second and fourth Tuesday of each month, participating students engage in various step-by-step processes of assembling LEGO creations, which including working mechanisms and coded computers. Categories for building include Mindstorm, We-Do, and simple machines.
“We’re building in different stages of complexity,” Gaier said. “The Mindstorm sets are the most complex, and require true coding. The We-Do sets are a little more guided with coding, and the simple machine sets have no computer, and are all about how simple machines operate.”
The program was funded entirely through grants from federal programs and local philanthropic groups, as organized by Curriculum Director Scott Bloom.
“It really taps into creativity,” Bloom said. “There are no wrong answers with this program. With LEGOs, if it’s not working, you just take it apart and try again. We want kids to really sit down and think about why things are happening.”
“I really think the hands-on experience is lost sometimes with kids, so I think it’s important to foster that,” said Assistant Principal Heath Butler. “Right now, our program is very open to allow kids to do a lot of exploring. Next year, we might separate the kids into groups, and even those who don’t necessarily go to competition will still receive challenges to accomplish. That way, there’s always a means to give kids a hands-on experience.”
”I think it’s fun to create, and see something that you made walk or drive,” said sixth grader Owen Fast.
“Next year, I hope they separate groups into people who build and people who code,” said fourth grader Lane Belt. “I’ve always been a big fan of computer science.”
With this being the program’s inaugural year at PCIS, Gaier hopes to get both students and program leaders oriented to the process of construction and coding, so that in the 2019-20 school year, Piqua Central can compete at the district level in FIRST — For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology — LEGO League tournaments.
“As of right now, I’m learning along the way with our students,” Gaier said. “Next year, the goal is to come up with a team that competes. Some schools have two or three groups, so what we need to do is decide what’s best for our group and what a competitive team will look like. We’ve got kids with experience from third grade that are leading other kids, and then we have others who are just naturally inclined to building, so this program really has everyone.”
“We’ve got this pretty well-established here, and it’s a little bit ingrained in the STEM programs at the junior high, which leads right into pre-engineering at the high school,” Bloom said. “The regular classroom is great, but with this kind of learning, you can’t approximate that sort of experience.”
For more information on LEGO tournaments, visit www.firstlegoleague.com.