LEGOs are building blocks to engineering

Published 9:42 pm Friday, March 2, 2018

Every Thursday, 23 students at John Yeates Middle School gather in the library to participate in the CHROME club.

CHROME, Cooperating Hampton Roads Organizations for Minorities in Engineering, provides training and resources for students to learn small facets of engineering. Currently, the sixth- and seventh-grade students are working with programming on LEGO robots.

Prior to the club’s work with LEGO robotics, the focus of the club was alternative energy.


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Leslie Bulger is the current faculty sponsor for the club, and she has applied for grants to help afford the supplies the students need to participate. Bulger has received $4,000 in grants from the Suffolk Education Foundation and Target for the club.

“I’ve written grants to afford the LEGO supplies and competition fee,” Bulger said. “The students only have to pay for their T-shirt and $10 at the beginning of the year.”

When the group first got started with the LEGOs, they missed the deadline for the competition, but that gave them the opportunity to spend the year learning how the robotics and programming worked. Last fall, they participated in their first competition.

LEGO League currently challenges the students with hydrodynamics, and the competition consists of three parts — research and presentation, mission-based challenges and cooperation with one another.

The students break off into smaller groups to build their robot and figure out what they can program it to do.

Brianna Poling and Lara Wylie, two of the three female students in the club, were paired together. The pair were in the process of building a LEGO elephant.

“It’s really awesome to see your inventions work,” Lara said. “It is a lot of trial and error with the programming.”

“My favorite part about CHROME Club is figuring out how to make stuff work,” Brianna said.

While this is some students’ first introduction to engineering and programming, for some they are building off of basics they already know.

Sam Vavrek enjoys the programming aspects of preparing for LEGO League, and he began coding before he started with the CHROME Club.

Part of CHROME Club’s mission is to have the students, whether on the same team or not, collaborate and work together to find solutions to the engineering problems.

“The hardest part is to try and understand what everyone wants to do,” Bayden Welton said. “The arguments aren’t fun.”

More of Bayden’s teammates agreed that the arguing can hinder the group’s progress.

While sixth- and seventh-grade students use the LEGOs to learn, the eighth-grade students have an entirely different mission.

The older students will be participating in a competition this April put on by Penn State and the Office of Naval Operations. The challenge is the Sea, Air and Land challenge, and the John Yeates students are participating in the sea section.