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Wannaskan (Lego) Almanac for Saturday, March 3rd

My Wannaskan Almanac peeps can already guess what I'm going to talk about today. And note, this isn't just a #proudmama moment; I actually have useful information to impart to the savvy, info-hungry readers of this blog.

Last Saturday, kids of all shapes and sizes, with clever team names and blinking outfits, fortified my determination to avoid the squishy "kids these days" quagmire I blogged about previously. I spent the day surrounded by "kids these days" at the MN FIRST LEGO League (FLL) State Championship, marveling at the ingenuity, creativity and just plain willingness of kids to dream.

What is FIRST LEGO League?
The 4 FIRST 

"In 1998, FIRST Founder, Dean Kamen, and the owner of the LEGO Group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, joined forces to create FIRST LEGO League, a powerful program that engages children in playful and meaningful learning while helping them discover the fun in science and technology through the FIRST LEGO League experience."

FIRST, as an organization itself, is pretty impressive. On the homepage of the FIRST website, it reads, "FIRST inspires students to dream big." Wow. Yes! You had me at "inspires."

FIRST LEGO League teams, as described succinctly on their respective website, "research a real-world problem such as food safety, recycling, energy, etc., 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."

The experience is broken into three components that are equally scored and judged: Core Values, Project, and Robot Design.

The Core Values:
  • We are a team.
  • We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors.
  • We know our coaches and mentors don't have all the answers; we learn together.
  • We honor the spirit of friendly competition.
  • What we discover is more important than what we win.
  • We share our experiences with others.
  • We display Gracious Professionalism® and Coopertition® in everything we do.
  • We have FUN!

Every year a new theme or challenge is issued to harness kids' ingenuity to solve a real-world problem. This year's theme was Hydrodynamics.

Two of my children participated in FIRST LEGO League this year. Here's what our two local teams came up with.

Lego the Woods: The Guppy Filter - a system to remove microfibers from laundry water to prevent contamination of groundwater, rivers and lakes. Taking the GuppyFriend washing bag created by Patagonia to the next level, this team designed an attachment that could be added to a washing machine so the the whole load benefits from the filtering instead of only a few garments.

Warbotics: Working with the non-profit WEEMA , this team focused on water transport to help make safe, clean water more accessible to communities in Ethiopia. They designed a harness so  women and girls in Ethiopia could carry heavy jerry cans full of water more comfortably to their homes.

And now, the proud mama part. 

The Middle Child was on the rookie Lego the Woods team. They were strong contenders, making it all the way to the state tournament. They received a callback for Innovative Design and were 1 of 6 teams considered for submission to FIRST for additional development/funding assistance. Unfortunately they didn't make the final four, but are eager alternates should the other teams not be able to continue. Pretty impressive for a rookie team comprised mostly of 6th graders. (Did I mention there are 640 teams in Minnesota?)

My Dying-to-Drive-But-Not-Old-Enough-To Child has been with the Warbotics since the beginning. This team, in its third year, has made it to the state tournament every year. (Another strong rookie team back in their day.) When they made it to State this year, as a team, they decided to go for it - to try to make it Worlds. And they wouldn't even have to win; they only had to land in the top 3 spots. For my son, who ages out of the program now, this was an especially meaningful goal.

And the Warbotics did it! They won 1st place and are headed to the FIRST Championship in Detroit, MI with the 2nd place (Fab 4, see photo gallery below) and 3rd place (The Dots) winners. Woo hoo!

Seeing my son and his teammates accomplish the goal they set out to achieve is beyond thrilling. I wish we could have popped little fire crackers that unfurled little flags that said, "Hard Work!", "Tenacity!" or "Teamwork!" with some glittery confetti and a cheerful toot.

This brings me to my most-favorite part of FIRST LEGO League: They really walk their talk.

Honestly, when you hear the name LEGO in the title, there's a natural tendency to be all about the robot. And indeed, some kids are all about the robot. But, here's the thing. It's NOT all about the robot and FIRST Lego League stands behind this.

Per Coach Greg Dignan's article in the newspaper from a neighboring village, "In the Championship callback, judges were 'looking for the most well-rounded team who embodies the spirit of FIRST and is exceptional across all judging categories.'"

One of the Warbotics kids told the judges, "It doesn't matter if we win or lose today. It just matters that our project is changing lives."

Kids these days? These kids are pretty awesome.

(And nice. Very, very nice. As in good manners, and all that.)

My heart is happy.

 And now, on to our regularly scheduled program...

Random Kid-claimed Fun Facts

Fun Fact #1: You actually can't see the Great Wall of China from space. (Verified.)

Fun Fact #2: Gum doesn't actually stay in your stomach for 6-7 years. (Unverified.)

Fun Fact #3: It takes over 700 gallons of water to make a flannel shirt. (Sort of.)

On This Day

And important historic events that happened ON THIS DAY.
1575 - Indian Mughal Emperor Akbar defeats Bengali army at the Battle of Tukaroi
1857 - Second Opium War: France and the United Kingdom declare war on China
1861 - Alexander II of Russia signs the Emancipation Manifesto, freeing serfs and granted them the full rights of free citizens [OS=Feb 19]
1887 - Anne Sullivan begins teaching 6 year old blind-deaf Helen Keller
1917 - 1st major strike of the Russian "February Revolution" starts at the giant Putilov factory in Petrograd [OS=Feb 18]
1921 - Toronto's Dr Banting & Dr Best announce discovery of insulin
1931 - "Star Spangled Banner" officially becomes US national anthem by congressional resolution
1939 - Mahatma Gandhi begins a fast in Mumbai (Bombay) to protest against autocratic rule in India
1943 - Battle of the Bismarck Sea: Australian and American air forces devastate Japanese navy convoy
1991 - Los Angeles police officers severely beat motorist Rodney King, the beating is famously captured on amateur video and later leads to riots when the police officers are acquitted
2013 - A 2-year-old US girl becomes the first child born with HIV to be cured on this day.

A belated, #STEMfem, On-this-day Celebration of the following women for their contributions to STEM fields on February 24*

2/24/1967 — Jocelyn Bell Burnell, British astrophysicist, astronomer, discovers the first pulsar, a rapidly rotating neutron star.

Rebecca Lee Crumpler
2/24/1864 — Rebecca Lee Crumpler is awarded a doctoral degree from the New England Female Medical College, Boston, MA; she becomes the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree.

Happy Birthday to You!🎶 

A belated #STEMfem* Happy Birthday to Lydia Ernestine Becker!

2/24/1827 — b. Lydia Ernestine Becker, English suffrage leader, scientist. Influential in development of early 20th century suffrage campaigns, advocated for women's right to vote in the U.K; botanist with minor interests in biology and astronomy. .

A very special Happy Birthday to a much-adored potter, Karen Engevik, from our folksy region. Check out her brilliant art at Black Horse Pottery and give her (and you) the best birthday gift ever - buy a piece of art!
Karen Engevik, potter & artist extraordinaire

And now, I'm off to cheer for Team F.R.E.D.!


*STEMfem is a gem of a Twitter Feed celebrating women's accomplishments and contributions in STEM fields. Unfortunately our posting timelines don't coincide, so we celebrate last week's Saturday shout-outs today.

P.S. Here are some more photos from the Lego League event for your enjoyment.
Cheering for the teams!
Team Spirit!

The Fab 4, also heading to Worlds.
The Wolves were a team of mostly 4th graders!
Hi Ho Lego and mom/daughter bonding.
Most of the judges and referees
dress up for fun. There's also energetic music
playing throughout the day,
so bring your best line dancing moves.


  1. I need just one more bit of information: when do you find the time to write these amazingly informative posts?

    1. Don't you know, I get 30 hours in my day, six of which are devoted to this blog. :)


    3. So cool! What fun! (For second there, I thought your link was spam. I skimmed and missed the "om" part of "mom.")

  2. Thirty hours a day? Yea, right! Do I have to be a mom to get that bonus, or have you become delusional in your years as a mother? (Just kidding. HaHa!) Congrats to the not-kids-these-days young people, a term I prefer to "kids," as these young people are fully fledged human beings in their own way. Cheers! CS

  3. I must be old school, because when I see the word Legos, I think of those yellow plastic interlocking 'bricks' with pegs on one side and holes on the other. I thought Legos was a sequel to an Erector set, like sort of an accessory. Guess not. Where have I been living?

    1. I'm with you all the way, Wannaska Writer. Even after knowing our dear Saturday writer for many years, I still can't get beyond your description of "legos." Where have I been living? Beltrami Island Forest . . . not a lego to be found among the pines. I doubt we're missing too much with our addled, aging brains. Or are we . . .?


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