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LEGO League members share information

Unicoi County’s “Master Builders” had the opportunity to showcase a program they helped build from scratch to a state competition.
The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGO League hosted a meeting, sponsored by the Joint Economic Board of Unicoi County and ETSU’s Center of Community Outreach, on April 21, at Erwin Town Hall in hopes of expanding the program, as well as showcasing the members of student team 11760 of Unicoi County after their recent trip to the state competition in Cookeville.
“It is a very tight schedule,” said Tish Oldham, Economic Development Board Executive Director and Director of Community Outreach and Economic Development for ETSU’s Center for Community Outreach, of the state event. “There are sometimes when they only had 10 to 30 minutes to get on to the next competition. When they do that, they have to be prepared and then they stand up in front of the judges … we sit there while everything they do, is all the students.”
Members of the inaugural team include: Mairead O’Hare, Aidan O’Hare, Grace Medlin, Sabra Medlin, Levi Carver, Luke Garland, Luke Rogers and Ian Barnes.
After a powerpoint presentation, the builders had their LEGO Mindstorms EV2 robot “R.O.B” displayed on the FIRST LEGO League challenge field table to show the children and adults in attendance. Sponsors and coaches also fielded questions from potential new members.
“It’s exceptionally important just to see the show of support,” Oldham added about the meeting. “Also for these kids to realize they started something and that they’re going to be the spark or the catalyst for it. I hope this gives them inspiration as they go on later in life and try something new and risk doing something different.
“It was all new for them, all new for us, but I think that’s how you innovate. If America’s going to be the kind of country it can be, we have to be entrepreneurial and we have to be innovative and that’s what we’re doing here in Unicoi County. We’re just so grateful for the money the state of Tennessee provided for this and especially grateful for the manufacturers and private individuals in the community. Without them we couldn’t take the team to Tennessee Tech.”
Seeing the hard work of the kids met with widespread support was a sight to see, according to Amy Blaine, one of the key cogs to help field the team.
“We started the season with nobody really knowing much about LEGO,” Blaine said. “The kids just worked hard on presentation skills, teamwork and programming. The attention for the program built up as the season went, but I think now there’s a lot of people in the community that are interested to pitch in and help move it forward.”
It was also a great sight for Brian Whitson, owner of Fiction Addiction Comics and Toys in Erwin, who has offered to sponsor the group moving forward.
“I honestly expected just a few to be here,” he said. “As many that are here … if we could just get a few more involved, this program could blow up into something big. I would love to help with the program. I told them I’m available pretty much all the time. If Sunday would be a good time to meet, that’d be no problem. In the technological era that we live in now, the kids need to be there in something like this.”
Different sponsors also helped get the program off the ground, including Nuclear Fuel Services, Stone Mountain Technologies, Inc., NN, Inc., EnergySolutions, Liberty Lumber, Erwin Utilities, Impact Plastics, Inc., Unicoi County Family YMCA, Robert and Anita Leger and Lee and Denise Brown, among a host of others, according to the group.
Sign-ups for the team are available for students in fourth through eighth grades for the 2015-2016 school year. For further information on the group or to join, contact Oldham at [email protected] or call 735-0836.