School System Supporting STEM

• FIRST LEGO League kicks off at Campbell.
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• FIRST LEGO League kicks off at Campbell.

By SHAUN SAVARESE

Of The Record Staff

The FIRST LEGO League season began in Greensboro in August and made its way to Harnett County last week with a kick-off event at Campbell University.

School of Engineering Assistant Professor Dr. Lynn Albers headed up the season-starting event with help from FIRST Americorps VISTA member Sam Last, FIRST senior mentor for N.C. Fiona Last-Powell and Harnett County Schools Digital Teaching and Learning Coordinator Matt Tamala.

More than a dozen Harnett County schools have committed to participate in FIRST LEGO League this year, with the season culminating Nov. 11 at the Campbell University competition.

Dr. Albers thanked the university for allowing nearly 100 children, parents, teachers and student mentors to gather at Turner Auditorium in D. Rich Hall on the Buies Creek campus.

Mr. Last stimulated the students’ minds with brain teasers on water conservation before playing a video which detailed the challenges that the fourththrough eighth-graders will face at the competition in November. Dr. Albers took the microphone and again thanked the school and expressed pride in the 13 area schools participating.

She said each team will have an engineering student mentor and she revealed who Overhills and Angier Elementary schools will have as their engineering mentors. While most Harnett County Schools FIRST LEGO League teams will have firstyear Campbell University engineering students as mentors, Angier Elementary will have a graduate student. Overhills Elementary will have help from two of its own, Overhills High School seniors Megan Addington and Lauren Wright.

Both Megan and Lauren are 17 years old, both are drum majors, both play the flute, both will compete in the FIRST Robotics Competition in January, and both of them plan to major in engineering at college next fall.

Lauren is strongly considering East Carolina University, where she plans on majoring in both engineering and music. “I can’t wait,” she said of her upcoming mentorship.

Megan hopes to study marine biology, ecology and aquatic engineering in college. “I’m excited to see kids get into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. I wasn’t able to do that at their age,” she said.

Angier Elementary Instructional Technology Facilitator Shannon Bass said her students and their parents See LEGO, Page 3A

FIRST LEGO League teams research a real-world problem and are challenged to develop a solution. They also must design, build and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology then compete on a table-top playing field like the one shown above.

Daily Record Photo/Shaun Savarese LEGO

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are equally excited.

“They are very excited. When I sent home permission slips, they came back the next day,” Ms. Bass said. “The parents are on board and excited that their children will have this opportunity.”

Harnett County Schools Digital Teaching & Learning Coordinator Matt Tamala expects more than 300 students from across the state to fill Campbell’s Turner Auditorium and Carter Gymnasium this Veterans Day.

“I’m really glad Harnett County is able to give these kids the opportunity to show exactly what they are able to do,” Mr. Tamala said. “The students and the teachers in Harnett County are doing amazing things and I’m glad we are able to highlight them.”

Mr. Last, of Greensboro, acts as a head referee for FIRST LEGO League NC. He is also a VISTA, or Volunteer in Service to America, with an organization-led mission to end poverty.

He displayed a competition table outside Dr. Rich Hall for those 10- to 14-year-olds who came to Campbell University for the FIRST LEGO League 2017 season kick-off event.

He loves working with kids and LEGOs and though he normally focuses on issues like rural infrastructure and feeding the hungry, he loves when a young student uses knowledge and tools and turns them into something all their own. And, according to Harnett County Schools Academically & Intellectually Gifted (AIG) and Special Projects Coordinator Johnna Skatell, that is the point.

“The AIG Department is funding the fourth- and fifth-grade academically gifted students with the FIRST LEGO League teams to enrich these students in STEM education,” Ms. Skatell said.

She added, “STEM is our future” and that she believes many of these children will be working in fields of science, technology, engineering and math as adults.

“We are looking for community partnerships to help fund and expand the FIRST LEGO League teams because we are interested in expanding this program into the middle schools next year,” Ms. Skatell said.

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