The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

April 10, 2014

A worldwide honor

By Amy Kent Herald Staff Writer
The Clinton Herald

---- — CAMANCHE — In their first year of competition, the Camanche Elementary School Jr. LEGO League team has accomplished more than they ever imagined, capping off the season with a worldwide honor.

The six students of Sheryl Kennedy’s Jr. LEGO League team will join 39 other teams from around the world on April 24 in St. Louis, Mo., for the 2014 Jr. FIRST LEGO League World Festival Expo.

”They are expecting around 10,000 students to participate in the competition,” Kennedy said. “And we are the only team from Iowa in our age division so it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the kids.”

While the students are thrilled with the opportunity to compete against students across the world, the road to the expo hasn’t been the easiest one to traverse.

Kennedy’s team, the Disaster Masters, first had to compete in the regional competition against several other teams in their third-grade division in Davenport. They were selected by a team of judges as one of the top competitors of the regional tournament and became one of the teams entered into the World Expo lottery.

With a stroke of luck, the Camanche Disaster Masters were chosen to represent the state of Iowa, topping teams from Iowa City and Des Moines, to join 34 other state teams, one team from Canada and six teams from China.

”Certain states are selected to send a team to the expo and this year Iowa was one of those states,” Kennedy said. “We could have made it all the way through the regional competition and into the lottery but still wouldn’t have been able to go if it wasn’t Iowa’s turn. So, it’s really lucky that in our first year as a team we were not only able to make it this far, but that Iowa was one of the states that was able to send a team.”

As Iowa’s representative for the competition, the Camanche Elementary students feel a level of pressure on their backs like never before, especially because they are one of the smallest schools participating.

”Most of the teams are from big cities,” Kennedy said. “Ten-thousand participants is a huge amount but not when you compare it to the quarter of a million students who take part in LEGO League around the world.”

Even though Kennedy’s students are feeling the nerves of competing at such a high level, the excitement of the competition is overwhelming those fears.

For Ethan Schultz, taking a trip to St. Louis is something he has been looking forward to since the team found out they were going. That is just a small piece of what he expects will be the best part of the World Expo.

”I’m really excited to meet the students from other countries,” Schultz said. “Especially the teams from China.”

Kennedy is enthusiastic for her students to meet and compete against international schools, but she believes seeing the way each continent handles the challenge differently will be a learning experience for everyone.

Not only will the Disaster Masters get an opportunity to witness what their third grade counterparts have developed out of LEGOs, but they will also get a glimpse into their futures as they witness the high-tech creations the high school level teams have developed.

”It’s really going to be a neat experience for the kids to see how other teams solve the same problems they’ve had to solve,” Kennedy said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that most kids their age would never get to have.”