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The mission involved helping a grandmother do the laundry without her having to walk downstairs.

The solution came from 12-year-old Melodey Colcord and her team's robot, Jonsie the Ape, a hand-built contraption created by engineers.

Or that's what educators are counting on by showcasing some 50 elementary students' robots during Granite School District's inaugural Lego League event. The event started Wednesday at district offices with an opening ceremony featuring dancing robots.

Andy Misco, a Granite technology specialist and robotics coach, said the league is about getting students interested in science and engineering. Teams budget $850 for their first year, and around $400 in following years. There are competition categories available for students age nine to 14.

"[It's about] sparking that enthusiasm in kids for STEM [science, technology, engineering and math]" said Misco, who volunteers as a league coach. "Only four kids have done this before, so we're in the beginning stages."

In the game scenario, each team programs a robot to handle a mission, such as having the robot turn on a TV, open a pill bottle or, in at least in one case, help do the laundry. In addition, students learn how to work together as a team.

Wednesday's event helped showcase the Granite students' work so far, while they prepare for regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competitions in early January.

The state championship takes place Jan. 27 at the University of Utah. The World Festival is held in April.

The competition, which is officially called a "coopertition," results from students forming teams and working on their robots after school, beefing up their science and technical skills.

"We're talking about STEM but also team work and what's called the core values" said Rick Anthony, the district's director of educational technology.

This year's theme for the competition, "Senior Solutions," resonated with students like Colcord, who, as part of her research, asked her grandmother what problems she had that could potentially be solved with the help of a robot.

"My grandma, who's 60, we interviewed her, and she had a problem walking down the stairs to do the laundry," said Colcord, who attends Academy Park Elementary. "I like building with all the pieces the best."

Sixth-grader Suzanna Evans of Twin Peaks Elementary said she liked solving problems while participating in the league.

"The rod pushes it down and releases the lock, but its not metal because some people are allergic to metal," Evans said of her project.

Said Damion Ly, 11, of West Valley Elementary: "I like it because it's a chance to meet other people in other grades."

Twitter: @rayutah —


O Find out more about FIRST Lego League events:

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