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Teacher's dream becomes reality for students

Date: 12/2/2008

Clifford M. Granger Elementary School's fourth grade FIRST LEGO League team "Lightning Lego."
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

It had been a goal of Agawam High School's Rosie Robotics founders John Burns and Dana Henry to expand the program into all other schools within the district.

Thanks to a $10,000 grant from Berkshire Power, extracurricular robotics programs now exist for students at all levels within Agawam Public Schools. However, Henry told Reminder Publications that expansion was bittersweet as Burns was unable to see his dream before his passing earlier this year.

"It was always a dream of John Burns and I to expand the program and offer it to as many children as we could," Henry explained. "The success of Rosie allowed us to expand the program . It's unfortunate that John isn't able to experience it but I'm sure he's looking down."

For the first time, Agawam Public Schools will have teams competing from each of the elementary schools and two teams from the middle school at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) qualifier at the junior high school on Dec. 6.

This year, the FLL is challenging students ages nine to 14 to research and theorize solutions to the current climate shift. "Climate Connections" is the challenge for all competing teams, which asks participants to learn about climate change while building an autonomous robot to solve the competition's challenges. Students in first through third grades are also participating in the event as Junior FLL teams, which require them only to research climate change and present their findings to those at the competition.

"Both of my sons are LEGO maniacs," Wincy Chan, coordinator of the FLL team at Clifford M. Granger Elementary School team, said of why she chose to get involved.

She explained that through this club her children learn real world problem solving and how to relate the global phenomenon of climate change to their own community.

Nancy Bobskill, Junior FLL coach at Clifford M. Granger Elementary School, explained that her team of six students completed their research on climate change and then built a LEGO wind mill to measure wind speed and the effects of weather on climate shifts.

She added that while the Junior FLL teams do not compete they learn useful problem solving skills, teamwork and competitive spirit.

All FLL teams are judged in five categories including research and presentation, robot performance, technical mechanics of the robot's construction, teamwork and gracious professionalism.

Winners of the qualifying tournaments throughout the Commonwealth will have the opportunity to complete in the Massachusetts FLL Championship in Worcester and possibly as one of 100 teams from 40 participating countries at the FLL World Festival.

The Agawam Qualifier, hosted by Rosie Robotics will take place from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.