Maine FIRST Lego League Championship Event Highlights Maine Students’ STEM Skills

The FIRST Lego League trophies ready to go.

The 22nd annual Maine FIRST Lego League Championship on December 18th was a hybrid event that offered teams from across the state an opportunity to compete in-person or remotely.  Messalonskee High School in Oakland hosted the in-person part of the event with a half dozen teams in attendance.  The virtual part of the event included another seven teams that connected over Zoom.  This also allowed judges to connect from as far away as California and Israel.  The streamlined day ended with a fifteen minute Awards Ceremony over Zoom.

The Champion’s Award went to the “Smart Fun Engineers” for the fourth consecutive year with a high score of 335 points, of the possible 670, for their robot’s performance.  The team from Farmington was certainly ecstatic to learn about their win this year.

The Champion’s Finalist Award went to the Lego Legends from the Brewer Community School.  This diverse team with members ranging from eight to thirteen even includes a member from nearby Orrington (who does not have a Lego Robotics team) who showed up with personalized team t-shirts and matching hats.  Their coach, Joarly Arnold, received the Mentor Award.  Joarly, who works for General Electric and is part of their corporate team of GE Girls, said she is passionate about getting children engaged with STEM, including robotics.  She has been working with the team for four years, and due to her background in information engineering, she believes kids “should have an early introduction to STEM, as it teaches them not only science and mathematics, but increases their critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills; skills that they will use regardless of their future career path.”

FIRST LEGO League Team 32423 from Brewer Community School.
FIRST LEGO League Team 32423 from Brewer Community School.

The Robot Design Award went to the Fort Fairfield RoboTigers, which had to overcome many challenges around team members quarantining throughout the season.  They were among the teams connecting virtually, and found the experience of interacting with the judges to be highly beneficial.

The Innovation Project Award went to the Veazie Viking Robotics team who proposed carbon fiber shipping containers.  The team researched the material and its potential for making shipping of goods more fuel efficient due to the lighter weight, and more cost effective due to improving manufacturing processes.  Other teams designed ways of transporting goods and medication to rural parts of the state.  The team from Fort Fairfield focused on a way to prevent the region’s favorite product, the potato, from bouncing out of trucks as they travel down the road.

The Core Values Award went to the Lego Coop Kids from the Berwick area.  This group of seven included five sixth graders and two fourth graders who were competing in the FIRST Lego League for the first time, after recently forming.  The judges were highly impressed by their ability to work together and have fun, which are key aspects of the Core Values.

RSU #52 teacher Geoff Cyr, who has been involved in the FIRST Lego League for eight years in numerous capacities, received an Outstanding Volunteer Award.  Geoff, who serves as the Volunteer Coordinator, is always looking for individuals to get involved in the FIRST Lego League in Maine.  While experienced referees and judges are always needed, there is always a need for more.

Members of the Leeds Central School team present their projects to judges Jon Graham (Maine Department of Education) and Dr. Laura Gurney (Husson University).
Members of the Leeds Central School team present their projects to judges Jon Graham (Maine Department of Education) and Dr. Laura Gurney (Husson University).

The Maine FIRST Lego League did have a different look and feel than previous events held at the Augusta Civic Center, but dedicated volunteers, judges, coaches and teams have been able to keep the spirit alive through a difficult and unpredictable period.  The opportunities for students to come together as a team, work through multiple challenges and present their projects is vitally important to their success in school and beyond.  Hopefully the success of this season will encourage others to form or revive robotics teams at their school.