You open a brand-new Lego set and you hear the loud crackling as you open the package. A smile spreads across your face as you rush to open the set, a feeling of excitement in your fingers rips through the packaging paper, and you prepare to take these toys to another level.
Heber Elementary School District offers First Lego League from fourth through sixth grade as an extracurricular activity to come and enjoy after school.
Jacob Anderson teaches fourth through sixth grade at Heber Elementary School district and is the instructor of the First Lego League. First Lego League is welcoming new children to come and join the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Funding for First Lego League is provided by the after-school Heber enrichment program.
“I’m open to anyone, looking for kids interested in science, technology, and engineering," Anderson said. "We have open spots and it’s a first-come, first-served basis. At Heber, this is our first year; we are trying to get kids interested. Next year, we are hoping to have competitions and bring in new kids. We want kids interested in innovation issues.”
Every year, the students have to create a robot that accomplishes a practical, real-world task. This year’s challenge was called Cargo Connect and students figured out how to make cargo efficient for travel and delivery.
Judges would score the students' concepts and the construction separately, and students must have new fresh ideas.
Anderson teaches students skills needed to succeed in any scientific field, such as how to update a plan and review it. Since there are four students per team, students learn how to share ideas and support each other.
“They are doing really well. They are banging on my door to get in as soon as school is out. They are excited. I’ve heard them talk about it during recess,” Anderson said.
Fifth-grader Xavier Madrigal said he is planning a path to his future and wants to continue with Legos by designing structures, toys and innovative ideas.
“I want to be a Lego designer because it’s fun and I play with Legos all the time,” he said. “You literally get paid to play with Legos, and I’m a really great designer. I make a lot of Lego robots and I’m proud of it.”
Madrigal recalls his first time really engaging and growing a new interest in Legos.
“My first interaction was a tiny set my mom got for me for my 5th birthday, and from then on, I started playing with Legos,” Madrigal said.
The First Lego League has allowed Madrigal to use toys to demonstrate how the skills he learns in the classroom can be applied in real life.
“I use math skills because in the program it tells me the degrees used to turn the robot. I use reading skills to read the instruction manual,” he said.
Madrigal said he would like to compete against other robots in competitions outside of the Imperial Valley, and he plans to continue with robotics.
“If I stay longer like in high school I will be able to build robots with arms and legs,” he said.
Along with academic skills, First Lego League teaches students how to interact with one another to build upon new ideas.
“You use teamwork to help your team and other people. If you struggle, keep on doing it,” said fifth-grader Steven Jaramillo, 11.
Along with knowing the STEM field, students want to expand their knowledge and envision a variety of ways to use it. Limon considers robotics as a fun, useful hobby. Jaramillo is interested in home designing for his future.
“I might be a home designer, because you get to choose what goes there and what doesn’t,” Jaramillo said.
“After robotics, I want to be a chef. I love helping people, and if there are any poor people, I’ll help them with nice warm meals,” said fourth-grader Daniel Limon, 9.
Students are able to expand their knowledge and receive guidance from Anderson as they learn the fundamentals of robotics.
“He has helped us to program and he helps us with homework,” said Jaramillo. “I mean, he’s a good programmer; I can tell,” said Jaramillo.
“He encourages us and helps us find our pieces,” said Limon.
Parents of First Lego League students are embracing the extracurricular as they learn the fundamentals the program has to offer.
“They were happy for me because I was in the program,” said Jaramillo.
“They were happy and proud because I want to learn new things,” said Limon.