December 13, 2023

FIRST LEGO League Scrimmage

Brick by brick, the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) scrimmage held at Ames Middle School on December 1 showcased not only robots built using LEGO, but deeper connections built, too.

Six teams from the Ames Community School District were in attendance; four from Ames Middle School, plus teams from Fellows Elementary and Sawyer Elementary.

“I love the Ames FLL scrimmage because it gives us a chance to bring the (FLL) communities together in Ames,” Dagney Paskach, FIRST LEGO League sponsor since 2020 and eighth grade science teacher since 2022 said. “We have volunteers here from our two high school teams, Photon and Neutrino.”

FIRST LEGO Challenge is for fourth graders to eighth graders. At the scrimmage, teams in attendance gave project presentations, robot interviews, and robot rounds, where the robots try to collect as many points on the field as they can.

“It has three components,” Paskach shares. “The one that most people are familiar with is where students design and build a robot out of Lego to complete tasks on a table. The tasks change every year, like the robots have to push things or move across the table. Also, teams work together to research a real world problem in their community and design an innovative solution to solve that problem. Along the way, they exercise core values such as teamwork, discovery, and impact. Those skills are really important to learn in all areas of life.”

This introduction to science, engineering, and technology creates a great base for students to get hands-on experience and several learning opportunities with their peers.

“I like that LEGO League combines LEGO and modern innovation,” Fellows fifth grader, Subhashini Ramamoorthy-Vaswani said.

Similarly, to eighth grader Hanna Kim, FIRST LEGO League to her is important as “It means having fun and problem-solving, and really innovating,” she shares.

At Ames Middle School, FIRST LEGO League is very popular as witnessed by the four teams: Purple Puffin Puppies, T-Rex Takeover, Snurtle Dogs, and Happy Little Goats Wearing Happy Little Sweaters. With such popularity, tryouts are in the fall so friendships can be forged.

“One of the things I try to facilitate with my middle school teams, I try to pair students who are younger with students that are older and that gives our eighth graders a chance to mentor and build leadership skills,” says Paskach. “Those younger students have role-models that they’re looking up to and that really carries with them into high school. Our middle schoolers love working with the high schoolers because ‘they’re the cool high schoolers’, when they get to high school they sometimes have a familiar face in the building.”

Paskach is truly passionate about what she does. She is an Ames High graduate from the class of 2016, and a graduate of Iowa State University with magna cum laude honors in industrial engineering from the class of 2018.

“This is literally my favorite thing I get to do,” she said. “I only did it in eighth grade, and thought it meant you’d be building with LEGO for the first time, it wasn’t until my brother was in sixth grade until I figured out what it meant. I remember going to the FLL scrimmage back in 2011 and Team Neutrino brought their robot and I realized that’s what I could do in high school and I joined the team. I really never left, it’s amazing to be back.”