Utica school kids take Legos and robotics to a new level

Apr 5, 2013 Issues: Education

By Chad Selweski, Macomb Daily

U.S. Rep. Candice Miller spent time on Tuesday with the Utica Community Schools’ renowned Lego robotics team members before they head to the international championships in St. Louis later this month.

The eight students brought their robot made of Legos, nicknamed “Granny,” to Miller’s Shelby Township office and showed the congresswoman many of the little machine’s capabilities. The students from Crissman Elementary School and Malow Junior High School worked together on the device and compiled a 3-inch-thick binder packed with research in the process.

“That’s the most important thing in life — teamwork — no matter what you’re involved in,” said Miller, a Harrison Township Republican. “I’m just so impressed by all of you and all your creativity.”

The Granny moniker came from the project’s overall theme, which incorporated learning about retirement savings with robotic design.

The robot has a moving arm — dubbed the Seuss arm — three motors, three light sensors and several attachments, including one used to lift weights. The kids, ages 9 to 12 years old, also programmed the machine to bowl, with the ability to knock down tiny bowling pins.

Lego robotics, practiced in a format called For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science Technology, or FIRST, has grown so quickly that there are 20,000 FIRST teams in the world, according to Amy Roy, who coaches the Utica team along with her husband, Pascal.

Across Michigan, 350 teams compete and the UCS kids, dubbed the “Crazy Pizza People,” earned the Grand Champion title at both the regional Thunderquest tournament and at the Michigan White Lake State Tournament.