Team members from Surge during one of their robot runs.

On a chilly Saturday morning this month,  FIRST Lego League teams were checking in by 7:30 am. “When Life Gives you Llamas”, “Surge”, “Hill City Robotics” and the “Fabulous Five” were just a few of the teams that came together to race robots, present solutions to problems generated by long space voyages, and compete in core values challenges.

FIRST’s mission

FIRST LEGO League is unique, with a timely mission to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.”

Members of GOAT switch out attachments on their robot during a robot run.

Teams show skills

Three team examples demonstrate the breadth of the programs impact.
  • Surge presented their ideas for avoiding Alzheimer’s disease by reducing radiation exposure on long space flights. They brought in-depth research (and Santa hats) to address this issue.
  • G.O.A.T. cheered their robot on as it performed the required maneuvers, racing against the clock to achieve a high score that propelled them to the next level.
  • And the Robo Hobos made sure every one of their team helped address their core value challenge, guiding activities where only one teammate could see.

The Whole Experience

Several Robo Hobos work to complete missions during their robot run.

“This is where my son met ‘his people”” said one coach. “I see his energy change, and by the end of the day he’s joining in the dance party with the rest of the kids!”

Speaking of dance party, DJ Clint supplied wisdom as well as a dance beat. He asked who believes that learning is power, then challenged the crowd, saying “You learned today, and you applied what you learned.  THAT is power!”

When Life Gives You Llamas with Governor Kristi Noem as part of After School Day at the Capitol.

The culmination of the event sends three teams to national competition and features the 1st Place Champion team at the capital in Pierre on February 6th. The team, When Life Gives you Llamas from O’Gorman Junior High in Sioux Falls, represented the program as part of After School Day at the capital.

More important than the trophy is the confidence and the passion that comes from practicing gracious professionalism and coopertition – competitiveness and cooperation combined – core values espoused by FIRST.
“Our program wouldn’t happen without amazing volunteers, supportive parents, and the dedication of the FIRST Lego League organization,” said Stacy Stahl, Executive Director of Youth Programs at EmBe. “We also have incredibly generous donors that help teams across the state purchase the robot kits, fund travel to competitions, and make sure that our future scientists are inspired today.”

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