Building Their Way to the Top: Kipapa Third Graders Head to Lego League World Festival

Trey Yamamoto, Reporter

     This year, five third graders from Kipapa Elementary will be attending the2020 LEGO League World Festival in Houston, Tx. Since this project is part of the school’s third grade curriculum, each class grouped four to five students into a team to compete in the event. Participating in the Junior level ofthe For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGOLeague, the five students moving on in the competition were selected out of 54public, private, charter and home school teams. The students will be competing against nearly 100 teams from the U.S. and across the world in the world festival.

     “The students are fearless and jump right in trying new things. Sometimesthey teach us things that we didn’t know the LEGO program can do,” said Kipapa Elementary’s Gifted and Talented teacher, STEM coordinator and Robotics coach Stacie Tateyama.

     The challenge for this year was “Boomtown Build,” where students were asked to research different types of buildings and study how they were engineered. Their designs needed to possess the durable, accessible and environmentally friendly nature of the buildings they researched. “We designed a building that looks like an aircraft carrier at the naval station, to protect people,”said third grader Jonah Baniaga. Third grader SonRae Robb added, “We madea place for taking care of people.” Since his father works in the Navy, Baniagatook inspiration from Pearl Harbor when creating the crane, helicopter and houses for his group’s model. 

     When building their project, the students also incorporated multiple movable parts in their model’s functions. This allowed them to meet LEGO’s requirement of having at least one moving part. “The helicopter moves so that people will think it was a real helicopter. The cooling fan will keep the town cool,” said third grader Jadore Gapusan. Third grader Marcus Chaidy added, “The hub movesthe cooling fan but it is difficult to work because the switch goes left and right but if you want to stop it, you have to go in the middle.”

     The students also incorporated a moving part that was controlled electronically.“For the crane, we used Bluetooth to connect it to the computer so we can program codes to make it go up and down,” said Robb.

     As the students prepare for the competition, they are given one month to build the project and another month to do their research and type out their project on their “Show Me” boards. The boards are made to illustrate the research they’ve done and their building process. “These projects are student-centered so the students complete the project on their own. We (do) have workshops to teach the students the basic functions of the LEGO and the WeDo programming components,” said Tateyama.

     When building and designing their project, the students’ main challenge was finding the right materials. “The helicopter (was a challenge) because the rotowire had to be tight but loose enough to let it spin so we tried many times. We tried different sized pieces like shorter and longer and fatter (pieces) to fit and make the helicopter work. We finally found a serrated piece that worked,” said Baniaga. Gapusan added, “Not finding the right pieces is challenging because we need certain pieces to work.”

     Aside from the challenges regarding the preparation and building process of their projects the students also have fears regarding the world festival. “I hope that our project doesn’t fall and break because it will take a long time to build it back again,” said Baniaga.Gapusan and third grader Anaiah Nunes shared the same fear that their project might break in front of the judges.

     The students also have fears regarding the functions of their project as well as their presentation to the judges. “I’m afraid that the programming won’t work,” said Robb. Chaidy added, “I’m shy so I’m scared of doing our presentation in front of the judges.”

     Leading up to the world festival, the students plan to build upon their project by making their crane and aircraft carrier more durable while also adding to their “Show Me” board. Alongside the FIRST Robotics League, Kipapa Elementary also has a competitive robotics team that participates in the VEX IQ and SeaPerch programs. The school is currently participating in the VEX IQ season and will participate in SeaPerch starting in February. Asa means to fundraise and help to send the FIRST Robotics students on their trip to Houston,the robotics club has a GoFundMe page titled the Kipapa Boomtown Cougars and will be fundraising at the locations listed below on the following dates:

     February 13: McDonald’s, Kipapa (McTeacher’s Night)February 25: California Pizza Kitchen, Mililani Town CenterFebruary 29: Garage Sale, Kipapa Elementary SchoolMarch 6: Panda Express, Mililani Town CenterMarch 13: McDonald’s, Mililani Mauka (McTeacher’s Night)