Maine FIRST Lego League Championship Brings Together Twenty-Four Robotics Teams at Spruce Mountain High School 

(Pictured: The RoboSharks in a team huddle before presenting to judges.)

The 23rd annual Maine FIRST Lego League Championship on December 3rd was another success with two dozen teams from around the state coming to Spruce Mountain High School. Hosted by the Blue Crew out Farmington, all 24 teams shared their innovation projects with judges in the morning and competed in the robot performance in the afternoon. Teams came from Brewer, Caribou, Jay, Oakland, Old Town, Vinalhaven, Winslow and other towns mentioned below to present their innovative projects to judges and test out their robot designs on the field.  

The Champion’s Award went to the Smart Fun Engineers (Team 16492,), who, for the fifth consecutive year won the Robot Game Award with their robot’s high score of 270 points. They will now have an opportunity to represent Maine at the international FLL event in Texas in 2023. Their win included defeating the Gardiner Iron Tiger Cubs (Team 48102) in the “Just for Fun” playoff finals.  

The fifth consecutive Champion’s Award for the Smart Fun Engineers was a thrill for these eighth graders who have been classmates and teammates for several years.
The fifth consecutive Champion’s Award for the Smart Fun Engineers was a thrill for these eighth graders who have been classmates and teammates for several years.

The Champion’s Finalist Award went to STEAM Powered Knights (Team 34104) from the St. George School. The team, led by coach Amy Palmer, is comprised of all new-to-the-game eighth graders. They performed strongly in the three judged areas – Core Values, Robot Design and Innovation Project. 

Members of the STEAM Powered Knights present their innovation project that focused on transforming PFAS contaminated areas into solar farms.
Members of the STEAM Powered Knights present their innovation project that focused on transforming PFAS contaminated areas into solar farms.

The Core Values Award went to the team from the Leeds Central School (Team 52374), who exemplified inclusion and teamwork in their performances and projects. The Core Values Finalist Award went to the Smart Fun Scientists (Team 57933). 

The Innovation Project Award went to the Legendary LEGO Coop Kids (Team 51454) from the Berwick area, who despite being a young team had another strong performance this year.  The Innovation Project Finalist Award went to the RoboSharks (Team 14407) from the Shapleigh School in Kittery, who made an impressive debut at the event in a team of all fifth graders. 

The Robot Design Award went to the Electronic Mustangs from the CK Burns School in Saco and the Robot Design Finalist Award went to the Renewable NRG Bars from Orono Middle School. 

The Outstanding Volunteer Award went to Dr. Laura Guerney from UMaine, whose involvement in the FIRST Lego League events and mentoring of judges has been invaluable over the years.  The Coach/Mentor Award went to Chris Herrick, whose positive and focused leadership has been key to the success of the young Legendary LEGO Coop Team in the past few years. 

23rd annual Maine FIRST Lego League Championship

To learn more about opportunities for Robotics in Maine schools, check out Robotics Institute of Maine (RIM). For information about computer science in Maine schools, please check out the Maine Department of Education’s Computer Science page. If you have a robotics success story at your school, email jonathan.m.graham@maine.gov. 

Sparking Creativity: International Dot Day and Augmented Reality

When Terri Dawson, Technology Integrator at Gorham Middle School, heard Peter H. Reynolds read from his children’s book, The Dot, at an International Society for Technology in Education conference, she knew she had to bring the book back to her school. Reynolds’ book tells the story of a young student, Vashti, who feels like she can’t draw. Her teacher encourages her to simply “make a mark and see where it goes,” and by doing so, sparks Vashti’s creativity, inspiring the little girl and her classmates to have creative confidence.

So, when Dawson discovered a collaboration between QuiverVision, an augmented reality (AR) coloring app for iPads, and International Dot Day, she knew she had found an innovative way to connect sixth, seventh, and eighth-grade students to this beloved children’s book via technology. The students began by listening to Peter H. Reynolds read from his book on YouTube. That’s when they began their own creative process.

Dawson provided students with a paper template from QuiverVision that included space for the students to design their own dots and a QR code, that, when scanned by their iPads, displayed their dots in augmented reality. This allowed them to experience their drawings in a totally different way. Dawson noted that “when the students saw their dots come to life, their engagement and motivation to do another dot was amazing…it gave them another level of learning. They started to think about what else they could create.”

Dawson’s students were so engaged and inspired, they asked for the opportunity to take their iPads home and continue with their own designs using AR.

“Augmented reality and virtual reality seem to be a natural progression in education,” said Dawson, “there are so many different things that allow students to view their world differently. That’s what I want to expose them to. I want them to have these skills so that when they go out into the workforce they say, ‘I remember using AR! Did you know you could do this with a QR code?’”

Media Release: Governor Mills Announces New Initiative to Bring Mobile Computer Science Labs to All Maine Schools

Governor Janet Mills today announced the launch of a new Maine Department of Education (DOE) initiative that will provide every Maine public school with a free mobile computer science lab. The effort, funded through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, will enable all Maine students to access high-quality learning experiences that provide real-word training in robotics, programming, augmented and virtual reality, coding, and hardware.

In July, Governor Mills joined governors from across the country in signing a bipartisan national compact on computer science education. As part of the agreement unveiled at the National Governors Association’s Summer Meeting in Portland, all 50 governors pledged to work to expand K-12 computer science education options in their states. The DOE has a comprehensive computer science education plan guided by seven key principles.

“Our economy increasingly depends on workers with training in computer science. This initiative will ensure that students across our state are prepared to succeed in the jobs of the future,” said Governor Janet Mills. “My administration will continue to make sure that all Maine students have a chance to acquire digital literacy skills.”

“Maine is leading the nation by providing equipment to our schools statewide to ensure that every student has a meaningful computer science education with real-world applications,” said Pender Makin, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Education. “These mobile computer science labs will provide every student in Maine, across all grade levels and subject areas, with learning experiences that prepare them for future success.”

“This opportunity from the Mills administration and the Maine Department of Education is a game-changer for the students of Maine. For the first time, all Maine kids will have equal access to a high-quality computer science curriculum and tools in their schools. I am incredibly happy to see that equity is the centerpiece of this new initiative and cannot wait to see what happens next,” said Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Maine Chapter President and 8th Grade Computer Science Teacher Sean Wasson.

Schools will be able to order one of three mobile lab options: Robotics and Programming, Augmented and Virtual Reality, and Coding and Hardware. Each lab contains computer science equipment valued at $5,000 and is designed to be integrated into any content area and skill level. Additionally, the initiative will make available professional learning opportunities for educators tailored to each computer science topic area.

The Maine Department of Education is reaching out to Maine superintendents with detailed information about how to secure mobile labs for schools in their district. More information about each program area can be found on the Maine Department of Education website.

Commissioner Makin, Senator King, Students Participate in a Robotics Competition to Launch 19th Annual MLTI Student Conference

Maine Department of Education Commissioner Pender Makin and Senator Angus King kicked off the 19th annual MLTI (Maine Learning Technology Initiative) Student Conference today by participating in a live robotics competition with students at Nokomis Regional Middle High School.

Makin participated in person while King entered the competition remotely from his office in Washington, D.C. Student teams from schools across the state also competed to see who could get their robot to complete the skills tests the fastest, including nationally-ranked basketball phenom and Nokomis freshman, Copper Flagg. The morning launch session also included a welcome video from Governor Mills and a high-altitude balloon launch into space.

This year’s MLTI student conference was the highest attended in MLTI’s 19-year history with 55 schools, 5,672 students, and 696 educators participating. The theme of this year’s conference was MLTI Launches Space2Connect and included interpretations of space and connection as they relate to Maine students and their use of technology. The new virtual, classroom-based session style allowed students to attend in a classroom setting where they could learn, practice, and create.

Following the morning launch event, workshop leaders taught the conference participants new skills, provided time for students to practice these new skills, and then supported them as they created something new with what they learned. This new design allowed students to work together as they explored new resources and applications, created with new digital mediums, and collaborated to complete tasks.

Every school also received shirts for all participants that were designed by an MLTI student, and a 3-D printed medallion that traveled to space and back.

Spring Training Continues in April – Check Out This Lineup of MLTI Professional Learning Offerings

Active learning, student engagement, technology integration, digital instructional design, and digital citizenship and online safety are the main topics for an ongoing professional learning series offered by the MLTI Ambassadors. This series features daily offerings that can be attended live via Zoom and are open to all interested educators. The sessions are now available as asynchronous versions through our website. To attend one of the live sessions via Zoom, be sure to register through this April calendar. Please note that the times of these offerings vary from day to day. Asynchronous versions of these sessions will be available through MLTI Professional Learning as well as the MLTI Youtube channel. 

Some topical offerings:  

MondayMonday – Technology Integration with Rob Dominick 

The Technology Integration series has dug into some data describing the effect of technology in the classroom, discussed the foundational integration strategies of TPACK and SAMR, and introduced three other useful strategies of TIM, PICRAT, and Triple E.  

Coming up in April, we will continue to discuss those strategies by analyzing each one and looking into what they actually look like in practice in the classroom. The series will culminate in the last week of April by evaluating some example lesson plans which integrate technology so that participants can apply that skill to their own planning. 

To find the previous professional development sessions in this series, and receive contact hours for them, please visit our YouTube playlist. 

TuesdayTuesday Tech – Student Engagement with Erik Wade 

The student engagement series has been engaging audiences far and wide with professional development about integrating graphic design, inquiry, citizen science, and 3D design and printing. If you would like to view these past professional development opportunities, you can find them by clicking this link 

Coming up in April, we will explore engaging students through virtual reality, math and science simulations, and the use of technology in outdoor education and agriculture.    

WednesdayWednesdays with Werner – Digital Citizenship & Online Safety with Jonathan R. Werner 

This six-part series on Digital Citizenship and Online Safety will draw on the incredible resources Common Sense Education (CSE) has curated to provide educators with a framework for and tools to teach students about Digital Citizenship. April will include the last two offerings: Relationships and Communication (Week 5) and Cyberbullying, Digital Drama, and Hate Speech (Week 6).

Please note, educators can choose any or all of these sessions and do not need to be able to attend all six. After April Break, we will tackle the sixth CSE focus area, News and Media Literacy, in a multi-week series focusing on issues such as Finding Credible News, the Four Factors of Fair Use, and Creator’s Rights and Responsibilities. 

ThursdayThursday – Digital Instructional Design with Kate Meyer 

This series of workshops will explore the creation and implementation of high-quality, engaging, interactive digital learning experiences for your students. Each week we will explore a new digital strategy that you can easily implement into any unit of study. This month we will be exploring Digital Poetry, Design Thinking Infographics, and Podcasting. 

If you missed March’s workshops on Hexagonal Thinking, Silent Discussions, or Curation Projects, you can view them asynchronously on MLTI’s YouTube channel on the Digital Instructional Design playlist. 

FridayFriday – Active Learning with Holly Graffam 

The first series of workshops focused on integrating Problem-Based Learning in the classroom, including an overview of Problem-Based Learning as well explored applications across a variety of content areas from literacy to science.  

Beginning in April, Computer Science across the curriculum will be the subject of the second series of workshops. Sessions will discuss the critical need for computer science in our classrooms and examine engaging, creative ways to integrate computer science into your existing curriculums.