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Old 12-13-2017, 01:28 PM
Newton Daily News Newton Daily News is offline
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Default More than just toys

Students at Newton Christian School are taking toys to a whole new level this year. The school’s Lego League team, where students learn the basics of robotics and computer programming, has been selected to compete at the state level. In January, they’ll travel to Iowa State University in Ames to compete against teams from around the state, in hopes of bringing home a trophy.

Part of the First Lego League, the program is designed to teach students to solve real world challenges. The program requires students to research and design solutions to various problems, using Lego Mindstorm robots they’ve built to complete assigned tasks. This year, students at Newton Christian have been working on solutions based around hydrodynamics, the branch of science concerned with forces acted on or exerted by fluids.

Jonathan Raper, 13, an eighth-grader at Newton Christian said the projects give the team a chance to learn outside of the classroom.

“What we learn is more important than what we win,” Raper said. “We learn together, and we have a chance to share our experience with everyone.”

The Lego League has been a learning experience for first year coach Jeff Pence, as well. Pence said he realized early on that there was a lot more to Lego League than he first thought.

“I thought ‘yeah, I can play with Legos, I can do this,’” Pence said.

Pence wants to make sure students are learning as they go, which means working to guide them, without just giving them the answers. The biggest challenge his young team faced was coming up with a problem that they wanted to solve, but after looking at rain barrels and water filtration systems, the team settled on building a wastewater recovery system. *

In addition to studying hydrodynamics, students are also asked to find a problem they think they’ll be able to solve.

Jessica Endres, 12, a seventh-grader at Newton Christian pitched the idea of water conservation to the team after she noticed a leaky faucet at her house. The students designed and built a system to repurpose some of the water that’s often wasted. With studies showing the average person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day, the team hopes they’ll be able to lower than number by conserving and reusing some of the water with their design.

“When you’re brushing your teeth with the water running, it wastes water, so we redirected some of that water,” Endres said.

While Chappy, the student’s robot might be the star of the show, the event requires students to think like a scientist during the competitions. The team members aren’t allowed to touch the robot once it leaves the beginning stage, and with a limited amount of time to complete the challenges, they have to make sure they’re precise every time they place the robot on the board. At a regional competition this year, students struggled to get the exact placement right, but Raper said it was a learning experience for the team.

“We learned how to deal with adversity,” Raper said. “If it’s a whole centimeter off it can mess up everything.”

Contact David Dolmage at 641-792-3121 ext. 6532 or

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