County students demonstrate STEM skills at robotics competition

FORT KENT, Maine — County elementary school students demonstrated their abilities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at the 4th Annual Aroostook Jr. Robotics Competition at the University of Maine at Fort Kent on Thursday, May 24.

The students used LEGO blocks to explore the topic of water usage in our homes and communities as they designed projects under the theme of ‘Aqua Adventure.’ They also displayed their research with poster board presentations.

Fifteen teams consisting of 74 students from Fort Kent, Limestone and Caribou competed at the event including the winning team, Fort Kent Elementary School’s ‘Hydro Helpers.’

The Hydro Helpers, fourth-graders Rachel Wilson, Emlyn Nadeau, Emily Berube, Haidyn Saucier, and Elizabeth Grant-Parent, designed a LEGO project promoting hydro-powered energy.

They also included an important message on their poster board presentation, which read: “Most people think that girls can’t be engineers, but these girls can.”

Saucier said the thought came to her one evening while the team was preparing their project.

“One night I was sleeping in my bed and thinking about being an engineer when I grow up and I was thinking about how all the boys do it, so then I came up with that,” she said.

She added that, throughout the team’s research for the project, they learned that a few benefits of hydropower are that it “creates electricity and does not pollute.”

The robotics competition proved to be a multi-faceted learning opportunity for students which also helped them to acquire knowledge about subjects outside of STEM education.

Emma Cyr, a FKES fourth-grader and member of team ‘Drip Droppers,’ who created a water filtration project out of LEGOS, said her team learned some important facts related to social studies.

“I learned that a lot of people in South Africa and Africa have a lot of unsafe water and that if we help them, they’d have a lot more sanitized water and it would be way healthier for them,” she said.

Fifth and sixth grade students from Madawaska Elementary school, although they did not compete in the robotics competition, also joined in at the event to exhibit some  remote controlled LEGO robots that they programmed.

Nicollette Martin and Payton Pelletier, both MES fifth-graders, demonstrated a moving dogsled team they created with LEGOs.

“We both love animals and we wanted to do something unique that hasn’t already been done,” Martin said. “I learned just a few LEGO pieces can be much more than just a toy and can create real robots.”

Pelletier said she has enjoyed working with robotics at her school.

“I learned that robotics is actually really fun and so is getting to work with friends,” she said.

Gina Jandreau, an MES educator said working with LEGO robotics has benefitted her students.

“Some of the kids, before they get started they look at a building plan and have a hard time visualizing things, but once they get started and put things together and have that hands on experience, it’s amazing what they can do,” she said.  

Linda Sirois, an Ed tech at MES, said she also witnessed students’ academic as well as social skills progress as they worked on LEGO robotics.

“They learned to work as a team. They learned problem solving; if something didn’t work, they looked at different options. They learned to follow instructions and take it one step at a time,” she said.

In a joint statement submitted by email, FKES educators Kelley Marquis and Laure Roy, both of whom served as team coaches and co-facilitators of the robotics competition, shared their appreciation for the event’s success.

“The day was jam packed with energy, innovation, and collaboration,” they said. “Teams showed professionalism when presenting their research, innovative solutions, and challenges to the judging panel. There was a great turn out from the community and teams were excited to share and learn from one another. Teams definitely had a passion for this project and many are already planning for next year. It was a rewarding, action packed, fun day.”

UMFK Dean of Community Education Scott Voisine co-organized the robotics competition along with Marquis, and also served as emcee at the event.

McDonalds of Fort Kent sponsored lunch for all of the young scholars.

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