By Darren Lum
Published May 18 2017
The Wildcats’ LEGO team sits around a school table speaking about their lifelong love for LEGO.
Grade 6 students Collin Thorpe and Broden Boisvert along with Grade 5 student Taylor Sharpless won silver at the Skills Ontario Competition LEGO Mechanics Challenge on Monday May 1 at the Toronto Congress Centre.
There is an undeniable familial relationship between the Archie Stouffer Elementary School students. Like brothers they encourage one another to speak share their perspective and gently joke while recalling the success they experienced as the school’s first ever entry to this event.
They were excited to be there and looked forward to building something to rival their competitors particularly Collin who appreciated silver but sees room to improve if given another chance.
When asked what the silver medal means he said“That means next year we’ll bring home the gold.”
One area to improve will be giving themselves more time for the presentation which was rushed to completion at the end following the build portion of the competition he said.
Broden who has been working on his public speaking with a helper at school was excited but “was very nervous” at the event. The satisfaction of placing second stayed with Broden long after instilling newfound confidence.
“Well to be honest winning silver felt really good. It made me realize how awesome I am at stuff” Broden said.
The youngest member Taylor said his older teammates made him feel welcome and a part of the team. He said he felt the most nervous giving the presentation about their monorail. The team is thankful to principal Jane Austin and teacher Jessica Foulds for their help.
Named the Trillium Express their monorail scored enough points from the judges for second place. They constructed a battery-powered monorail capable of towing another carrier using the LEGO Mindstorms education kit.
Going into judging in the afternoon the team was confident about their design which was built robustly compared to their competitors. However in the end it was their presentation that ensured the silver medal. Part of their success in this area they said came from giving each member time to speak. Some teams only designated one spokesperson. Marked out of 100 the team was judged on the completion of the task worth 40 marks design and planning and process evaluation both worth 15 marks and presentation worth 30 marks.
The team had five weeks to prepare working on a series of tests. One of them was to pick up a figure and move it and then set it down. The boys benefitted from the mentorship of senior students who were practising for their own Skills Ontario Competition in robotics. The study of simple machines Austin said gave these students a working knowledge of gears and pulleys which was instrumental in achieving the silver medal.
Initially Austin who accompanied the team to the event and worked with the students in the five-week lead-up was concerned the team didn’t know the finer points about a monorail. However thanks to Broden’s strong reading ability he had a thorough understanding of the monorail. While he read his teammates worked on the construction using the LEGO kits they brought. They were provided details once he finished. He credits his kindergarten teacher Ms. Howard with his literacy abilities.
Austin is proud of the boys for their composure under pressure and their ability to work together effectively.
“Because they are so excited to build they like to dig in and get things going not necessarily with an end goal in mind. So that was something we really worked in the days [leading] up to the challenge was that time management piece” she said.
Austin was impressed by her team’s ability to co-operate and work to a deadline.
“I was really proud of the maturity they showed and their ability to do that. I know they think they didn’t leave themselves enough time but I was impressed because that showed growth for me. They had actually created enough time for their presentation and they did a great job” she said.
All the teams at the event were under a watchful eye scrutinized for how they worked together from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. There were judges moving from team to team evaluating throughout the day.
The event showcased a variety of trades which gave team members ideas about other areas they might want to investigate including engineering welding and auto mechanics.
Austin would like to have Skills Ontario Competition events like this one open to more students from other schools in the Trillium Lakelands District School Board besides just the two participating schools of ASES and Central Senior Public School of Lindsay.
“I see the trades and the skilled trades are such an important part of our communities now. We need to have opportunities for kids to experience specific trades … when we’re at that competition there is every kind of trade you can imagine that exists in Ontario that they are exposed to” she said. “I think it is a pretty remarkable opportunity for us as educators to partner with the colleges and universities and the trades schools to bring that awareness to students this age because they can start to think about what they want to do in the future.”