Clovis students win honors at Lego League competition

Liliana Castillo

In five minutes, the 11 Gifted and Talented students from the Arts Academy at Bella Vista designed a diagram of the human heart with a clot inside.

But it was their level-headed, cooperative and clear ability to explain the diagram that won them first place in Gracious Professionalism at the New Mexico First Lego League State Championship in Albuquerque over the weekend.

The arts academy team, called the Bravehearts, was one of 26 from the state that competed in the championship. The competition was made up of three areas called the Robot Round, the Project and Core Value.

In the Robot Round, the teams created a robot and programmed it to do certain tasks. The Project was a skit performed by the team based on research on the topic “Body Forward,” which presented a medical problem and a proposed solution to that problem.

Core Value is a challenge the team is not aware of ahead of time and has to be completed in five minutes.

Besides building a robot for the Robot Round, the Bravehearts researched the body’s blood system and blood clots, and invented their own solution called “Clots Be Gone” for The Project. To go with their theme, they created a heart for the Core Value challenge.

Team Coach Margaret Blazek said gracious professionalism is one of the principles of the First Lego League.

“It means they worked together. They’re competitive but in a friendly way, not a cutthroat way,” she said. “They were a really good example of good sportsmanship.”

The students said they knew they had to work together in each area, but with the five-minute time limit in the Core Value event, they came up with ideas quickly and voted.

“We were just working together. If we had ideas the group didn’t like, we voted and moved on. But we had to listen to each other,” sixth-grader T.J. Richardson said.

Blazek said she is not aware of any other team from Clovis competing in the First Lego League previously.

The group held fundraisers and used part of Blazek’s travel budget to pay for the trip, Blazek said.

The group of students were elated with their bright yellow trophy, made out of Legos.

“Winning isn’t everything,” sixth-grader Mariah Griego said. “It was about working together. It’s like a body. If we all work together, we can make a heart beat.”

Blazek said she was impressed by her students.

“They worked together so well. It was a very positive experience. They were the first to give a standing ovation for the team that won sweepstakes and gave them high five’s, and the other students didn’t do that,” she said.

Principal Shelly Norris said the students received the highest honor a child can get.

“It speaks to them as citizens and members of the community,” Norris said.

Norris said the students learn thinking on their feet, cooperative learning and critical thinking by taking part in a competition like the First Lego League State Championship.

The team was made up of sixth-graders E.J. Tarango, Trenton Gaither, Matthew Schneider, T.J. Richardson, Juan Alvarez, Nicole Biller, Athena Wilson, Rachael Candelaria, Mari Martinez, Joshua McLaurin and Mariah Griego.