4-H Lego program grows, readies for regional competition
ALBION – It started two years ago with a team of about a dozen kids, ages 8 to 14. The First Lego League expanded to three teams last year and now there are four teams with about 40 kids altogether in the program through 4-H in Orleans County.
The teams have been meeting three times a week since mid September. They have a regional competition on Nov. 15 in Churchville, vying against teams that are typically affiliated with schools with paid staff.
In Orleans County, the FLL program is under the 4-H umbrella with Erik and Marlene Seielstad as the volunteer mentors with help from their son Morgan and some other adults.
The mentors provide some supervision and advice, but the kids are driving the action. They meet at an onion packing house, the former Remley Printing Company in Albion. Signs taped to the wall say, “Kids do the work.” (Panek Farms donates use of the space for the teams.)
The teams have their own workspaces. They use WiFi on their laptops to research topics. This year’s theme is “FLL World Class: Learning Unleashed.”
Teams have discretion in researching their topics. One is studying how to better communicate, advocating for interpersonal skills over email. Another team is developing a new method for teaching typing skills and another team is researching how to preserve memory skills for Alzheimer’s patients.
Most of the focus is on the robot, which needs to be designed and programmed to conquer challenges, including retrieving rings on a course, throwing a ball through a hoop, opening doors and clicking on a switch.
“The kids get the opportunity to work together and accomplish things,” said Mr. Seielstad, who works as a systems engineer in Rochester.
Seielstad and his wife also are mentors for the robotics team, which includes high school kids. That program starts in January.
The Seielstads and their son Morgan, now a senior at Albion, have been champions of the robotics and Lego program in the county. It now draws participants from throughout the county, as well as from Elba and Brockport, which are outside Orleans.
“I find it overwhelming that this has occurred,” said Mrs. Seielstad, a member of the Albion Board of Education. “Our uniqueness is we have people from all over our county, as well as kids from other counties.”