RMS’s junior Lego Robotics league trains the next generation of engineers

  • Team Build-It! #20784 from Rindge Memorial School show their project to state Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut during a exhibition in Hollis on Sunday. Courtesy photo

  • Team Build-It! #20784 from Rindge Memorial School recently completed its first season by participating in the Hollis-Brookline FIRST Lego League Jr. Expo on Sunday, December 15th with 55 other teams. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/20/2019 11:06:10 AM
Modified: 12/20/2019 11:05:58 AM

The Rindge Memorial School is building up the next generation of engineers and designers with its new junior Lego robotics league.

On Sunday, the RMS FIRST Lego League Jr. team, Team Build-It!, attended their first exhibition at the Hollis-Brookline High School, showing off the results of their first year in the league.

This is the first year the elementary school has had a team, started by parent Chris Ratcliffe, who first became interested after seeing other local teams exhibiting during Rindge’s Fourth of July celebrations this summer. He, along with fellow coach and mentor Amy Ducheneau, started the team.

“The more I looked into it, the more I thought it would be a good thing,” Ratcliffe, who himself has a background in engineering, said. “And all kids love Lego, so it’s a natural fit.”

The team, made up of RMS students Morgan Ratcliffe, John Ludlam, Ellee Ludlam, Jax Stenersen, Noah Wight, Emmy Ratcliffe, and Charlotte Ducheneau, learned teamwork, engineering, programming and design skills over the course of the program, while participating in a challenge to build several models to make a tiny Lego city, including a powered windmill, a working elevator providing access to a partially-constructed building, and a robotic conveyance for patients to get to the city hospital.

“I was very impressed with just how bright and smart these kids are, and how skilled they are at coming up with ideas and expressing them, and then translating them into these impressive Lego builds,” Ratcliffe said. “It’s a skill.”

The team had to design their buildings with accessibility, durability, and sustainability in mind.

The junior league of FIRST Robotics isn’t competitive, but the team showed their project during an exhibition Sunday, along with 55 other teams, and received a Safety Award for their conduct during their presentation.

Ratcliffe said the robotics program teaches valuable life skills.

“I work at [MilliporeSigma] and we’re constantly needing to solve complex problems, and to do that, we need to work in teams. What makes a valuable employee is someone that can work together with other people to solve these big, complex problems.”

His daughter, Emmy, said that teamwork is one of her favorite parts of the program.

“When we were working as a team, it felt good, because we were all working together to make something. One group would make this part, and another would make that part,” she said.

And then they had to make it work as a cohesive whole.

Just as interesting, Ratcliffe’s son Morgan said, is the experimentation that leads to the final product. The team learned some basic programming to make the robots they built spin, flash colors, and move in the ways they directed.

“We managed to program it to do all kinds of things. We did a lot of experiments,” Morgan said.

The season is over for Team Build-It!, but Ratcliffe said they’re already eager for next year. The team is searching for additional adult volunteers to assist next year. No engineering or technical background is required. If you are interested in volunteering,  contact Ratcliffe at c.t.ratcliffe@gmail.com.

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