Lego-mania! Students build problem-solving bots

Robot rumble: Team “Lego Minds” cheered on their robotic creation at Xaverian High School on March 4.
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These legos are building leaders.

Teams of students from across the borough put their heads together and crafted problem-solving robots out of thousands of legos, motors, and senors for the First Lego League semifinal at Xaverian High School on March 4. Hundreds gathered at the Bay Ridge school to test their robotics skills, but the event went beyond stoking students’ interest in science and technology, and helped them develop crucial life skills, said one educator.

“I feel like it’s building the kids’ character,” said sixth-grade Marine Park science teacher Bruce Gamsey, who coached the Marine Park Storm Troppers and Marine Park Blockets. “They start with a couple thousand Lego pieces and their imaginations have to run wild. It builds creative thinkers, independent workers, and teaches them how to collaborate with others.”

Each First Lego League competition asks pupils to research a problem, such as recycling, energy, or sustainable agriculture. This time, the semifinals theme was “animal allies,” and asked students to focus on how animals and humans interact, according to Gamsey. And the theme carried throughout the tourney.

Twenty-five teams built and programmed Lego robots to complete tasks on a table-top playing field decked out with elaborate animal-oriented “missions.” One mission called for students to deliver a shark tank to a specific location without the fish falling from its perch. Another called for a robot to secure honey from a bee hive and bring it back to base.

Students were judged on how many tasks their bots completed, how they worked together, and on their research projects — where students brainstormed ways to improve animals lives, including using swivel wheels to make dog wheelchairs more mobile and by inventing dog feeder collars to help aging canines with weak neck muscles. It was an event rich with scientific discovery, said one coach.

“It’s great because it gives them great exposure to technology and a chance to see what’s out there,” said Bensonhurst resident Yong Liew, who coached the Lego Minds team. “But also a chance to show themselves what they can do, and maybe get them interested in the sciences.”

The top eleven teams will go on to the city championships on March 19 at City College and compete for a spot in the nationals.

Reach reporter Caroline Spivack at or by calling (718) 260–2523. Follow her on Twitter @carolinespivack.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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