Lego Robotics: An Adventure in Computer Programming

St. John-Emmanuel Completes in Lego Robotics Competition

Tinkering with Legos isn’t just for kids. Ask Randy Stinson, Lutheran school parent and one of the volunteer leaders for the Lego robotics club at St. John-Emmanuel Lutheran School.

Lego robotics combines engineering and computer programming, allowing students to design, build, and program small-scale Lego robots. These robots can complete a variety of tasks depending on the style and attachments the students use.

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“I always liked Lego sets,” Mr. Stinson says. “I work at Yamaha robotics. I don’t do programming, but I like to tinker and to play. That’s what got me into it.”

Last year was the first year for the club at St. John-Emmanuel. Randy learned

Lego robotics alongside other parent leaders, Steve Inniger and Steve Hetler.

Students competed against other Lego robotics clubs at team competitions pitting their robot against other robots designs. These competitions included three main judging criteria—the game (or robot design), the core values (sportsmanship and teamwork), and the research project. Students researched a real world problem based on a theme and designed a solution for it. Last year’s theme was “Trash Trek” and the St. John Emmanuel students came up with a solution to reduce the number of water bottles thrown into the trash each year.

Randy explains, “They wanted to see more water refill stations and develop an app that gives you rewards for refilling your water bottle. People who refill get a tag or sticker that tracks their refills and you get points for filling up. They had to get quotes on the cost of water stations and app development.” The students then presented their solution at a Lego robotics competition.

Besides coming up with a real world solution, the students also competed in robot design, which is where the students implement their knowledge of robotics and computer programming. Each school’s Lego robot design goes on a four by eight playing field where students complete a mission with their robot. During this timed challenge, students can change out attachments on their robot and try the mission again. Students work as a team and each mission has a point value.

Since the Lego robots require different skills, from programming to presentation skills, the team needs a variety of people who participate. Randy explains, “It’s neat to see the kids want to try. There are different areas that kids can rise to the challenge on the presentation part. But others are quiet and they’re task-oriented. Programmers need thinking skills.”

The diversity of team skills makes this a great opportunity for students to develop problem solving skills, teamwork, and troubleshooting skills.

He adds, “It’s an awesome thing for kids to get involved in.”

After their rookie year of Lego robotics club, Mr. Stinson has a better grasp on how the competitions work and is hoping to grow the St. John Emmanuel team and their skills. In the process, he gets to tinker around with Legos right alongside the students.