After-school clubs and activities range from music to sports, but a group of students at Elbridge Gale Elementary School in Wellington chose to spend their time working and learning in the Lego Robotics Club.
The RoboGators put their building and creative skills to the test in a recent expo, and their hard work paid off. Six elementary school students were awarded the honor of an invitation to compete at the First Lego League Junior World Championship Festival.
“We started in September of last year,” said robotics team coach and second grade science teacher Laura Arena. “The students were given a challenge at the beginning of the season to build a ‘Boomtown’ inspired by what they love about a community. Their challenge was to make it environmentally friendly, durable in accordance to where they live, as well as ADA accessible.”
Guided by coaches Laura Arena and Jaqueline LaPlatte, students Natalia Brooks, Jackson Hamilton, Parker Rulison, Andrea N. Lares, Aadiv Mishra and Arish Qaiser are preparing for a competition against 52 other junior teams from around the world.
“Let’s put it in perspective,” Arena said. “There are only 52 junior teams worldwide, out of 28,000 teams that attended expos, that made it to world competition. The RoboGators are the only team invited from all of South Florida and the first from Wellington.”
Since the students are from Wellington, the Wellington Amphitheater, pool, recreation center and Scott’s Place playground all fed into their design. Guest speakers visited the students at school to answer questions and help them build upon their research for the project.
“You can tell how important the community is to them because the students included these items in their Boomtown Build. Projects were reviewed by a series of judges, who also spent quite a bit of time with the students asking them questions regarding the challenge,” Arena said.
Their Boomtown includes components such as eco-friendly hydroelectricity and all ADA-accommodating buildings.
The team consists of four second-grade students and two third graders. The students, along with their parents and teacher-coaches, will all fly to Houston for the First Lego League World Festival from April 15 through April 18.
“They are so dedicated to this club,” said Arena, noting that the students attend twice a week. “The group of students we have are absolutely amazing. Parents have seen their children grow during this program. They are self-learners and have learned to accept challenges. They’ve learned how to work together. They learned poise and were so eloquent as they spoke to the judges.”
The team has to raise about $11,000 for the trip, and any remaining funds will go toward a special party for the entire team. While only six children were invited to compete on the world stage, the robotics team also has a second junior team and two intermediate teams for a total of more than 30 students.
To help support the students in their quest for success on the world stage, a GoFundMe page has been created. It can be found by searching “Help Send RoboGators Lego Robotics Juniors to Worlds.” There’s also a Find It Fund It Florida account at www.finditfunditflorida.com/palmbeach/grant/3361-33365.
Those who wish to support the group can also contact Arena at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.