Lego engineers advance to state

A First Lego League team from Forrest Bird Charter School, sponsored by local company TransluSense, displays a first-place trophy won during the regional competition in December. (Courtesy photo)

SANDPOINT — A few select Lego engineers from Bonner County will be hitting up the University of Idaho in Moscow this month to compete on the state level.

After another successful regional event to determine advancing teams, six Sandpoint First Lego League teams are preparing to test their skills against teams from all around the state. They earned that honor after competing with teams from North Idaho and Washington in the Sandpoint qualifying tournament, which resulted in 17 of the more than 30 participating groups earning their place in the Moscow state event.

The top teams in that competition will have the opportunity to head to the national Lego League tournament.

According to Dinah Gaddie, a teacher at Washington Elementary and one of the local Lego League’s primary organizers along with Farmin Stidwell teacher Alan Larsen, Sandpoint teams will attend the Jan. 19 competition held at the University of Idaho campus.

“I think (the Lego League) is a win-win for everyone,” she said. “Everybody has a great time, and I love the community essence of it.”

As with the Dec. 8 regional event, the state competition will test participants’ ability to present scientific concepts effective and engineer robots constructed from special Lego kits. In one portion of the competition, the team will navigate their robot through an obstacle course, while in the other, they will present concepts for science and technology centered around the theme of senior well-being. In the regional event, teams dreamed up ideas like helper robots, medical technology and nanomachines that they described to a panel of volunteer judges.

This year proved to be the biggest by far for the Lego League. The competition attracted visitors from all over the region, and more teams than ever formed right here in Sandpoint. Gaddie said special thanks went to the Panhandle Alliance For Education for supporting the program with a grant.

“The First Lego League is amazing, but it’s also a financial commitment,” Gaddie said.

All four Washington Elementary teams earned a spot at the statewide competition, as did a team from Farmin Stidwell and a team from the Forrest Bird Charter School sponsored by local business TransluSense.

“Those students worked really hard, and we were very pleased by the fact that some of them were able to take first place in an event,” company spokesperson Christine Alden said.

The victory is particularly exciting for the people at TransluSense. As a technology company producing state-of-the-art keyboards for medical professionals, Alden said they’re excited to participate in an activity that encourages students to explore the creative side of science and engineering.

The Lego League has grown significantly in Sandpoint over the past few years. It got its start two years ago when local teams from Farmin Stidwell and Washington Elementary traveled out of town to participate in the regional competition. The first event held in Sandpoint occurred last year and was expanded in every way, with more teams from the two elementary schools and another team organized by the Girl Scouts.

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