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Lego competition a learning experience
By Gwen Jader | Daily Herald Correspondent

Kids ages 9-14 competed in teams building robots from Legos and putting them to the test Saturday at Lake Zurich Middle School North in Hawthorn Woods.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Dave April, tournament coordinator for the regional tournament, speaks to the contestants before the competition. Teams of kids ages 9-14 built robots from Legos legos and putting them to the test Saturday at Lake Zurich Middle School North in Hawthorn Woods.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Kids maneuver their Lego robots though a practice course during the regional tournament Saturday at Lake Zurich Middle School North in Hawthorn Woods.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

John O'Connell, right, 12, and Ian Smith, 11, both of Palatine, maneuver their Lego robot though a course during the regional tournament at Lake Zurich Middle School North.


Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

Nick Fosco, left, of Mount Prospect judges Jeff Nejdl, center, and Eric Wood, right, during the regional Lego tournament held at Lincoln Middle School in Mount Prospect.


Daniel White | Staff Photographer

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Published: 12/14/2008 12:00 AM

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Robots on a Mission, a rookie team of seventh-grade students from St. Peter Lutheran School in Arlington Heights and home-schooled youngsters, learned about coping skills Saturday during a robotics tournament at Lake Zurich Middle School North.

After being disqualified in the first round because their robot had four motors, one more than the three allowed, the team redesigned the robot and scored well in the second round.

"The boys did a great job of coming together and regrouping," said their coach Dave Solak. "They looked at the problem, removed one of the motors and made some adjustments and improved their scores in the next rounds."

ROAM was one of 16 teams from Arlington Heights, Barrington, Batavia, Buffalo Grove, Elgin, Grayslake, Kildeer, Lake Zurich, Mundelein and Palatine competing in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Lego League regional competition.

Lego competitions also were going on Saturday at the elementary school level at Lincoln Middle School in Mount Prospect and at the high school level at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.

Dressed in matching black team T-shirts boasting a futuristic robot on a gray background, ROAM teammates were among more than 100 children ages 9-14 who went head-to-head with their robots, built and programmed with the Lego Mindstorms system.

"I've always been interested in Legos and technical stuff, so I thought that I would like this. I was surprised by how huge this competition was, and by the number of districts competing," said Kyle Wahlberg, a fourth-grade student from Frederick School in Grayslake who was participating for the first time.

This was the first year that Frederick School participated in the competition and interest was high, said Principal Eric Detweiler.

"We originally thought that we would sponsor one team, but when the number of students interested reached 28, we formed three teams. We even had to turn some away," Detweiler said.

This year's theme was Climate Connections, which immersed middle school students in the impact of changing weather patterns. Teams have brainstormed since September and programmed their robots to accomplish tasks during 21/2-minute competition rounds

Teams were judged on how well their robots performed in table action, as well as design and programming. Their research project on climate and their teamwork also were evaluated.

Team STEELE from Kildeer received the Technical Interview Award; Gem Miners from Lake Zurich won the Teamwork award; Gesundheit! from Grayslake won the Robot Table Performance award and Got Robot? from Elgin took the Judges Award. These teams will head to the state tournament Jan. 16-17 at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights. Lego Republic from Lake Zurich received the Research Presentation Award.

Motorola Foundation members have been major supporters of the competition, with many of its engineers serving as mentors and coaches for teams every year.