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Adrian Elementary students host First Lego League Jr. Expo

Hailee Castillo (left) and Kaylin Gibson demonstrate the water treatment system they created with Legos for the First Lego League Junior Expo at Adrian Elementary School Wednesday morning. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)1 / 5
Blake Martinez (from left), Lucas Koehne, Carl Leuttel, Joe Rahe, Jesse Bullerman and Ryker Thier showcase their Aqua Adventure Challenge Lego project during the First Lego League Junior Expo Wednesday morning at Adrian Elementary School (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)2 / 5
Riley Spies (from left), Darien Scroggs and Antonio Dammer assess their Lego Aqua Adventure Challenge project. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)3 / 5
Codin Bullerman, Tamera Tomsay, Alleah VandeKieft and Kayla Peters demonstrate their water filtration design built with Legos during the First Lego League Junior Expo Wednesday morning at Adrian Elementary School. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)4 / 5
Adrian Elementary students learn about the Aqua Adventure Challenge and Lego projects built by fourth- and fifth-grade students during a First Lego League Junior Expo Wednesday morning. (Julie Buntjer / The Globe)5 / 5

ADRIAN — Fourth- and fifth-grade students at Adrian Elementary School spent a portion of their Wednesday morning showcasing a months-long project exploring hydrodynamics through a STEM-focused First Lego League Aqua Adventure Challenge.

It was a year ago that elementary teacher and 4-H Robotics coach Monica Horn applied for and was awarded a three-year grant that included a dozen Lego WeDo kits and as many Chromebooks — along with extra Legos — to form a First Lego League at the school.

Last year, the students used the kits and Chromebooks for an Animal Allies learning project about honey bees. This time around, the goal was to build a project with Legos that could explain how water filtration works.

Each student group was tasked with building a system that included a moveable part programmed with the Chromebook. For most teams, the moving part was a rotating Lego piece they used to simulate water purification, although one team created a lift bridge for their moving object.

In addition to building a project, the students had a guest speaker — the city’s water treatment employee, Adam Henning — visit to talk about how the city’s water is treated before it reaches consumers, and how wastewater is treated after it leaves a home or business.

Class time was limited to a half-hour twice per week, and library time once per week, though several students gave up recess to spend extra time on their project, noted Sherrilyn Klaassen, the school’s technology media specialist who helped as students faced the challenges of programming and problem solving.

“Our biggest goal was not only the Aqua Challenge, but working as a team,” Klaassen said.

Through First Lego League, students must learn and carry out the core values of the program — starting with the premise that as a team, the students do the work. Coaches may help them learn, but they need to find the answers on their own.

“They’re learning how to get along with each other and share ideas respectfully,” Horn added. “They learn how a motor works, how you can troubleshoot and problem solve.”

With this being the second year experience for the fourth- and fifth-graders, Horn said she noticed the student projects were much more developed and creative this year.

The fourth- and fifth-graders — approximately 70 in all — will do another First Lego League project next year, while third-graders will get to explore a First Lego League project starting next week, followed by second-grade students.

Horn said following the third year of the First Lego League, the school will get to keep all of the equipment it received in the grant.

During the school’s first-ever First Lego League Jr. Expo on Wednesday, students spoke of how they sorted through a myriad of project ideas, delegated tasks and worked together to solve problems. They formed teams and began the project not long after the school year began in September.

The fifth-grade team calling themselves the “A’s” showcased their project, which — through varying colors of Legos — showed how water from a stream was pulled into pipes that then entered a filtering system, went through more pipes and flowed into a toilet in a Lego-built home.

“(We learned) that the water gets treated before you use it,” Tamera Tomsay said.

On another team, student Hailee Castillo said of the team’s final project, “We were thinking of ideas and we pictured it in our mind, then we started building.”

Their project wasn’t without challenges, however.

“The well broke and we had to make a piece that would be similar,” shared Kyler Kunkel. “We had to do it all by ourselves.”

Fifth-grader Jayden Phomsatry said by participating in the First Lego League project, he learned where water comes from and where it goes, and why people have to go into the sewers.

“And I learned that not all your ideas will be included,” he added. “We had to share and talk about what works best.”

Montana Erdman, a fourth-grader, said he learned that water can be reused after you’re done using it.

As for working with his teammates, he said, “I think we did have fun sometimes.”

“It’s a lot tougher than you think it could be,” said Jayden Russell of the team approach to problem solving. With three boys and three girls on his team, he said, “All the boys liked one idea and the girls didn’t.”

Klaassen said all of the students worked very hard and learned a lot in the process — and she learned right alongside them.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

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