By AUDREN HEDGES DUROY, age 10

Team Mindstorm Wizards build a robot out of sensors, motors and legos that helped reduce their school's paper waste. From left to right: Nathan Miller, Coach Thomas Miller, Kate Miller, Thomas Weis, Becky Miller, Marie Weis and Audren Hedges Duroc. PHOTO: Tanya Hedges Duroy
Team Mindstorm Wizards build a robot out of sensors, motors and legos that helped reduce their school’s paper waste. From left to right: Nathan Miller, Coach Thomas Miller, Kate Miller, Thomas Weis, Becky Miller, Marie Weis and Audren Hedges Duroc. PHOTO: Tanya Hedges Duroy

My First Lego League (FLL) team, the Mindstorm Wizards (ages 9-13), was prepared with our wizard hats and staves for the moment of truth. Would months of robot programming work? With excited tension, a referee wearing a purple stuffed-squid hat counted down: “3-2-1 Lego!!!”

FLL is a program to get girls and boys interested in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). On our team there are the same number of boys and girls. There is a fairly equal mix between boys and girls at the competition, too.

Using sensors, motors and Lego pieces, teams build and program robots to complete missions. Teams also research solutions to real-world problems. This year’s theme was Trash Trek.

Robots navigated challenges on the 8’x4’ surface, removed “plastic bags” from oceans, rescued Lego animals and turned waste into ‘compost.’ Our robot didn’t do everything, but we still won awards.

Trash is an important social justice issue, since the environment belongs to everyone. Reducing waste is the best solution, but once you have the trash, recycling or reusing it is the next best thing.

My team reduced our schools’ paper waste, while my sister’s team, the Tesseracts, worked to recycle food service industry gloves.

“FLL is working as a team to make and meet goals while doing it in a fun, enjoyable way,” said my teammate Thomas Weis. “It is also about helping others on our team and other teams to get better.” Being on an FLL team is hard work, but programming skills and research projects will help us make the world a better place.