Mount Prospect students spark imaginations with robotics, Legos

It's 5 p.m. on a warm, late-summer afternoon. Classrooms inside Mount Prospect's Lincoln Middle School are mostly empty, save a few sounds coming down a hallway on the first floor. School has been in session for less than two weeks now, but the walls already show signs of a fresh new year.

Two rooms in the east wing are buzzing with activity. In one room, students hover over computers, collaborating on a coding program called Scratch. Their goal: To program a robot to solve tasks autonomously.

Despite the late hour, the students are engaged and energetic, often hopping out of their seats to check in on other teams' progress. This is made all the more impressive given some of these students started their day with a 7 a.m. band practice.

In the second room, students, staff and parent volunteers are using the new Lego Spike Prime Robotics System. The tables are covered with bins of Legos and building instruction sheets. Some students are deep in independent thinking and problem solving, while others work in groups, testing their robot's movement and function.

"This new Lego Learning System allows students to explore computer science and design engineering concepts in a playful, engaging way," said Chris Steininger, a Lincoln Middle School social worker and coach of the Lego Robotics Club. "It's fun watching them turn STEM concepts into reality."

The Lego Robotics Club meets for eight sessions. When the club ends, interested students are invited to apply to become a member of Lincoln's First Lego League (FLL) competition team.

Spots on the team are limited and highly competitive. In years past, Lincoln Middle School FLL teams have gone on to win awards in regional, state, national, and international competitions.

"We are extremely proud of Lincoln's First Lego League's successful history," said Superintendent Mary Gorr. "It's proof that hard work and play make a powerful combination."

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