The Floating M & M Monkeys are going to State!
For those of you who don’t have children in the Vinton-Shellsburg 5th grade ELP First Lego League Program, we may need to explain.
The 5th-graders, coached by teacher Alissa Mann, traveled to Marion on Saturday, where they competed with several other teams from eastern Iowa in the annual robotics competition.
First Lego League teams spend a few months preparing for the contest, which includes building and programming a robot made (as the name suggests) from Legos. The robot, however, is just part of the contest. Teams also created presentations based on the theme of each year’s contest. The contest also includes interviews with judges, and rewards team spirit and sportsmanship.
This year, there were two teams: The Galaxy Blob Core Windows Net Invader Cows and Floating M&M Monkeys. Picking a team name is an important early step in the FLL process.
“Both teams performed amazingly,” reports the teacher. “The GBCWNIC earned FIRST PLACE in project and the Monkeys earned Championship Award and were nominated for the Global Innovation Award. I am so incredibly proud of the kids! They did an amazing job on Saturday! It is not easy presenting and being interviewed over and over, especially as a fifth-grader. I always compare this experience with a really intense multi-step job interview in front of a crowd.”
The six-boy Monkey team also will advance to the State event Jan. 19.
Ms. Mann explained the contest, and awards:
“This is a competition for Grades 4-8, which means we competed against some teams that are made up of older students that have been doing this for years. Also, a lot of teams partner with engineers or have engineers for their coach. I always expect the kids to go into the competition with the philosophy of what they learn is more important than what they win… but since we won some amazing awards, I thought it might be nice to clarify exactly what the kids won. At our Regional Qualifier Event, the GBCWNIC won FIRST PLACE for their project! Floating M&M Monkeys won Runner Up for Champion’s Award and was nominated for the Global Innovation Award!”

The parents of the children involved are impressed with the ELP program and contests like FLL which challenge and inspire their children and make learning more fun.

“It is an amazing program,” says Becca Ingham, whose daughter Addy is on the GBCWNIC  team. “Those kids who have brains that just keep going need to be challenged and encouraged to explore and learn new things. Its amazing to watch a child accomplish something you never thought possible. Addyson has shown great improvement in her confidence! The most amazing thing about the program is that they don’t just focus on their strengths. They also work on weaknesses as well. Addy is well above her age for anything in reading and language arts but math doesn’t come as easy to her and she continues to work on her math skills and find new ways that work with her bringing her to the level she needed to be at and continuing to grow! The focus on self esteem and core values as well. ELP is amazing.”
Also, says her mom: “Addy had a blast at First Lego League.”
See award descriptions below:

Project Award
This award recognizes a team that utilizes diverse resources to formulate an in-depth and comprehensive understanding of the problem they have identified. A team’s solution is exceptionally well-considered and creative, with good potential to solve the problem researched. The team effectively communicates the problem they have identified and their proposed solution to both the judges and other potential supporters. Champion’s Award Runner-Up This award recognizes a team that embodies the FIRST LEGO League experience, by fully embracing our Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and Project. The Champion’s Award is the most prestigious award that a team can win at an event. It celebrates the ultimate success of the FIRST mission. Core Values, Project, and Robot Design are considered equally important for this award. This award advances the team to the State Competition at Iowa State University.
Global Innovation Award Nomination
The Global Innovation Award (GIA) encourages teams to further develop their project and present their presentation to a separate panel of judges. In Iowa, each event will select one team for the GIA regional nomination. That team will be invited to showcase their research at the Iowa State Championship. One nominee per the State Championship will be selected from amongst the candidates to represent the state as the Iowa GIA nominee for global review. All Awards 1. Honorable Mention (Project, Robot, Core Values) 2. Main Part Awards (Project, Robot, Core Values) 3. Advancing to State for All Areas 4. Runner-Up Champions Award 5. Champion Award 6. Global Innovation Nominee- (Separate competition at State for just projects).