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March 17. 2014 9:01PM

Hampstead Academy Lego team is heading to global contest

HAMPSTEAD — Legos have always been popular, but lately the popular building bricks seem like they have been everywhere, even as the stars of a hit movie.

At Hampstead Academy, a group of nine six-, seventh-, and eighth-grade students are taking their love and skill at Lego building to a global competition in St. Louis.

Naturally Disastrous, Hampstead Academy's Lego League team, has worked hard and earned the opportunity to represent the state at the FIRST Lego League World Festival in April, according to Michele Shepherd, one of the two parent coaches of the Hampstead Academy Team.

"Thanks to FIRST Lego League, a team of talented middle school students is gaining a solid understanding of the possibilities that lay ahead of them," said Shepherd. "FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is the brainchild of Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway. The goal of this phenomenal program is to give students hands-on experience working with science and technology, so that engineers and scientists are seen as role models in the same way professional athletes are."

In the early fall, the FIRST Lego League releases a challenge based on a real-world scientific topic.

Each challenge, which the Hampstead Academy will put to the test in St. Louis, has three parts: robot game, project and Lego League core values.

Each team of up to 10 students participates in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field.

For the past three years, the Hampstead Academy team has been self-funded, but with a trip to the global competition on the horizon, the team is looking for donations.

"As a result of our recent success we find ourselves in need of financial support," said Shepherd. "The World Festival offers participants a valuable learning experience as well as the chance to meet kids from around the globe. In order to attend, our team needs to raise funds to offset the cost of the team's travel, registration and competition expenses. These kids are worth investing in — they are the future engineers, business owners, inventors and leaders of our communities."

Anyone who would like to donate can visit the team's website at www.naturallydisastrous.com or contact Shepherd at 382-4683.
"The team has been in place just three years," said Shepherd. "In that time, the team has been exposed to a variety of people and work environments, including a parts manufacturer, a rehabilitation facility, a yogurt factory and an environmental engineering firm. They have developed solutions to real world problems and shared their ideas with engineers, medical professionals, programmers and business owners."

aswift@newstote.com


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