Community Drive: Lego Robotics


Alkota had the opportunity to be a part of the FIRST LEGO League State Championship in Sioux Falls, SD.

Alkota sponsored a team called “Everything is Awesome!” who competed in their third season of FIRST® LEGO® League. They were a group of 7th grade girls from Spearfish, SD. They took home a trophy for Best Robot Mechanical Design.


LEGO-Elouise-Lines-Up-Robot-Deliver-BuidingsThis is an international program, created in partnership between For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®) and the LEGO® Group. The goal of the program is to challenge kids, ages 9-14, to apply science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) concepts to real world problems.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of kids from around the world compete in the FIRST® LEGO® League. They discover the fun in science and technology, while also building self-confidence, knowledge and valuable career and life skills. The theme for this year was “City Shaper”.


Teams were tasked to identify a problem with a building or public space in their community. They were tasked to design an innovative solution to the problem found. The solutions could fit within the parameters including: technology, marketing campaign, service project, and more.

The “Everything is Awesome!” team’s goal was to focus on Spearfish Creek, which is important for their community. Spearfish Creek flows out of Spearfish Canyon and right through the center of town. There is a large municipal campground, a historic fish hatchery, and a dozen city parks and public use areas. Homes are along the creek, but the majority of the land on both sides of the creek is for the public.

Conception to solution

LEGO-Team-Adopt-A-Creek-Project-Presentation-2The idea started as a simple beautification project doing litter clean-up along the creek. The girls reached out to the local Parks and Recreation department to make sure they didn’t step on anyone’s toes. Many conversations later, they developed an “Adopt-a-Creek” concept, which doesn’t exist in South Dakota.

This concept helped develop conversation about planning for future generations. Since cities often grow around rivers and other waterways, those waters often become neglected and ruined. The group reached out to other local groups and organizations in different states that were doing similar projects. They held an initial Adopt-A-Creek cleanup event in November along one large stretch of public land along the creek. It provided good results. The state agreed the event satisfied their requirements, and that stretch of the creek was officially adopted. The girls they wouldn’t be a FIRST LEGO team forever, so they reached out to Spearfish Middle School to see if the 8th grade would adopt that section and commit to annual cleanup. The school was excited and the 8th grade class adopted the entire creek, and committed to cleaning it twice a year.

Enter Robotics

The team also invested many hours into designing, building, coding and testing a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robot to complete a variety of city-themed tasks on a predetermined obstacle course.

The robot challenge involves a complicated array of components, as the robot is required to perform autonomously. It is not remote controlled, and can only be touched by the team in a small designated launch area on the competition surface. Teams competed head to head on a pair of competition tables. The robots had two and a half minutes to earn as many points as possible. They needed to complete tasks such as : clearing traffic jams, moving little LEGO buildings into target circles, operating a crane, relocating wildlife, and more.

Fortunately, “Everything is Awesome!” had a successful robot. They scored the most points at the Regional Tournament in Rapid City in early December. They posted the 6th best score at the State Championship in Sioux Falls in February.


Team members pictured from left to right – Elyse Friedrich, Elouise Adams, and Alison Kennedy.

Link to information about FIRST LEGO League:

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