SPPS Teams Compete in FIRST Lego League State Championship

  • Riverview Lego League

    Excitement, science, teamwork and lots of Legos filled Washington Technology Magnet School  on Feb. 20 for the FIRST Lego League State Tournament.

    Six teams from Saint Paul Public Schools competed in the championship, which showcased the top 10 percent of Lego League teams in Minnesota. The theme of the competition: find solutions to real-world waste issues.

    “I felt so proud to do well at a competition knowing that we were representing our school,” said Pearl, a fifth-grader at Groveland Park Elementary School. “It makes me feel so good to know that people might think our whole school is so smart, because of us.”

    The unanimous feeling was pride for the Groveland Park students in the days following the state tournament.

    “I was really stoked we made it to state,” said Lucy, a fifth-grader. “It was so fun controlling a robot in front of a huge crowd. I loved the feeling of butterflies while we waited for our final score.”

    Thanks to a grant from 3M more than 50 SPPS teams participated.

    Jon Peterson, the executive director for the district's Office of College and Career Readiness says the 3M support has been amazing.

    "Through our strong partnership we have been able to build one of the stronger Lego League programs in the region and state in terms of the number of teams represented throughout our schools and the diversity of students who participate in our city-wide competition," Peterson said.

    The longstanding support 3M has shown for SPPS’ Lego League teams, along with their support of many other programs focusing on innovation, math and engineering, has been integral in accelerating student learning during out-of-school-time, Peterson said.

    “With 3M's guidance and support we have been able to provide more equitable experiences for our students,” he said, “and the diverse makeup of our Lego League teams demonstrates that.”

    Groveland Principal, Becky Pederson, said including Lego League in the school’s Extended Day for Learning program helps open the league to everyone by making transportation available for all students.

    “Lego League teaches kids how to work together as a team, how to fail and how to try again,” Pedersen said. “Students say it helps them with math and it's a great opportunity for girls to get involved in science and robots.”

    Groveland Lego League

    Students worked for several months to program their Lego robots to complete a mission. Together they brainstormed ideas, conducted research and interviewed engineers and environmental professionals for their presentations on solutions to environmental problems.

    One team used the Lego League challenge problem to find a way for Groveland students to "rethink" breakfast food waste, Pedersen said.

    “There was a ton of teamwork, cooperation and thinking about food waste with our project,” said Ruby, a fifth-grader at Groveland Park. “It was really cool to work on robots and find ways to reduce garbage.”

    The students created an iMovie and introduced a prototype solution to collect the food waste from breakfast.

    “The skills the students have learned at Lego League have enhanced their problem-solving skills and provided great team-building opportunities,” Pedersen said.

    It also made students think about ways to get others involved to lessen their impact on the environment.

    A team at Mississippi Creative Arts launched a school-wide campaign to encourage students to recycle more paper at school after noticing how much paper was being thrown away in classroom garbage cans.

    The students collected data and brought forth a challenge to their fellow students to see which classroom could make the biggest improvements in reusing and recycling paper, said Amanda Brossard, Mississippi Creative’s Lego League coach. The reward for winning the challenge was a recycling-themed party.

    “The kids were so excited to get the entire school involved in their project,” Brossard said. “It is a great opportunity for kids to be proactive with their school.”

    Lego League also gives students the opportunity to think creatively and seek information that interests them, Brossard said.

    Some students took it as an opportunity to engage in civic activism.

    After noticing how much tinfoil is in the trash, a team at Adams Spanish Immersion School brainstormed ways to separate and wash tinfoil so it could be recycled. Another team looked for ideas to encourage people to stop buying products packed in styrofoam.

    The students did research, recorded a video, made posters and wrote letters to Amazon and Target asking them to stop doing business with companies that package their products in styrofoam, said Lynn Fellenberger, a parent and volunteer coach of Adams’s teams.

    “It was great to watch,” Fellenberger said. “I like to call it amazing chaos. Lego League is a great opportunity for kids to learn to be respectful of each other’s ideas, have fun, share and show others what they know about science.”


  • SPPS teams that participated in the State Championship were:

    • The Cyborg Ponies from Crossroads Science Program
    • The Trash Talkers from Farnsworth
    • The Galactic Legends from Groveland Park Elementary School
    • The Panda Professionals Strike Trash from Groveland Park Elementary School
    • The LEGO Huskies from Hamline Elementary
    • Keep Calm and LEGO On from Capitol Hill Gifted & Talented Magnet


  • FIRST Lego League’s mission is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders 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.