Houston, we have some Unicorn Girls!

The Unicorn Girls robotics team from Vogt Elementary at their St. Louis Expo

Over the past few years, I have coached both First Lego League and First Lego League Jr. teams at Vogt Elementary. The older FLL team has always been called the Viper Bots. The younger team has changed its name over time: First they were the Sci Girls, then the LadyBots. This year they became the Unicorn Girls.

Well, we ended up having so many interested 1st-3rd grade girls that we had to add a second Jr. FLL team: the Unimermaids. It was quite an experience coaching these two teams, along with co-coaches Yoli and Heather Roberts, and our middle school helper, Ludi.

In March, the two teams went to the local Jr. FLL Expo to demonstrate their Lego models and share what they learned about space during the season. The Unicorn Girls were awarded the “Engineering is Elementary” award for their cool model. The Unimermaids, meanwhile, were given the “Gracious Professionalism” award, which is a FIRST core value. The reviewer noticed that the Unimermaids took time during their presentation to mention the contributions of a teammate whose car got stuck in traffic and who was unable to make the presentation in time. I was very proud of them.

The Unimermaids robotics team from Vogt Elementary at their St. Louis Expo

So — two teams. Wow. That by itself would have made for a crazy season. But in January we learned that FIRST was inviting to the Unicorn Girls to travel to Houston to participate in the FIRST Lego League Junior World Festival! We were able to go thanks to the generosity of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri and the Ferguson-Florissant school district who paid for the hotel, airfare and other big expenses.

What a trip! The Unicorn Girls met other FLL Jr. teams from all over the United States and the world. They met kids from China, Vietnam, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Lebanon, and Mexico, just to name a few.

The Unicorn Girls robotics team got to meet FIRST president Don Bossi during the First Lego League Jr. World Festival.

On Friday the Unicorn Girls won a free pizza lunch with the president of FIRST, Don Bossi. On Saturday they met someone from NASA: Dave Lavery, who is in charge solar system explorations. Mr. Lavery told us that he oversees the Mars rovers. He also said that next year NASA will be sending a helicopter robot to Mars!

Speaking of robots, the Unicorn Girls visited older FLL teams to see their Lego robots. They also saw big metal robots built by high school FRC teams. Oh, they also got to feel a pig’s heart!

When it was time for the Unicorn Girls’ presentation, they did a great job and they overcame adversity. They kept their cool even when their computer had problems with Bluetooth, and their model broke.

On Saturday the Unicorn Girls learned they had won the “Discover and Share Award” for their team poster.

What a way for Vogt Elementary’s robotics program to wind down in the school’s final year! It has been my pleasure working with all the different girls robotics teams these past four years. I’m thankful to Dr. Washington who asked us to help, and to Yoli for signing me up to do it.

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