Mario Diaz and the team at the Grant Woods branch of the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley provide after school and summer programs, youth sports leagues, teen leadership opportunities, and homework help. But every Friday and Tuesday evening, they also host something out of this world – a First Lego League team called The Little Dippers.
This is the first year The Little Dippers have been a part of First Lego League and they are off to a great start. Twice a week the team works on building and programming a Lego robot and learning about robotics and space.
It might be the team’s first year but it’s not the first time several members are working with Lego robots. Cody Graves (fourth grade at Mesa Arts Academy) has worked with Lego robots kits before. He’s played an important role keeping the Lego missions in working order. “Mission Four keeps falling apart so we need a guy to make sure it stayed together. I am that guy” says Cody.
Harper Mowry (sixth grade at Haley Elementary) and Violet Gamble (sixth grade at Shumway Leadership Academy) lead the way with the team’s research project. Their study of space suits formed the foundation for the team’s presentation that caused them to win the regional competition at Intel in November. The team even interviewed an expert on space suits from NASA and learned how to 3D print prototypes.
Harper, Violet and the rest of the team receive great support from junior coach Savannah Shawley (eighth grade at Eduprize). Savannah offers the team constructive feedback on the quality of their presentations and ways in which they can stand out from their competitors.
For Tairyyn Asberry (fourth grade at Mesa Arts Academy), it’s being part of the team that’s the most fun. Tairyyn is a valuable utility player on the team. She helps the team stay focused to build parts, program missions and run the robot. She even makes sure the team signs in and the attendance rosters are added to the team notebook so everything stays organized.
Connor Friend (seventh grade at Arete Preparatory Academy) enjoys building the robot and working with Brian Romero (a volunteer from Intel) to program it perfectly. Connor put what he learned over five summers at the Engineering for Kids summer camp to good use. He was instrumental in the team’s victory in their regional competition last November. With Connor’s help, this brand new team came in second place earning them a spot at the state competition at ASU in January.
The Dippers are sponsored by Education Empowers, Inc., a local non-profit that partners with organizations like the Intel Foundation, the James Unruh Family Foundation, the Lego Foundation and ASU, to bring a community of volunteers together to support STEM and robotics education to children across the East Valley.
Zona wishes The Little Dippers good luck at their state competition. If you’d like to learn more about this program, email contactateducationempowers.org or visit firstlegoleague.org.