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Montessori, Margaret Leary build upon First Legos League trophies

Montessori, Margaret Leary build upon First Legos League trophies


Silver Bow Montessori School and Margaret Leary Elementary Legos Robotics students have their act together in a Legos sort of way.

In a recent statewide First Legos League competition at Montana State University in Bozeman, both teams brought home a first-place trophy in at least one category.

Montessori’s Building Joes, led by Coach Bobbi Blow, placed first in project presentation.

The Margaret Leary Math Magicians, led by Jennifer Luoma and Becky Booth, took first place in teamwork.

First Lego League introduces youths in grades 4-8 science and technology in a fun, exciting fashion.  

The Montessori team created a contracting company called the Building Joes, specializing in teaching the general public about building safe, efficient and green homes.

As part of their award-winning presentation, the Building Joes built a house model, organized educational classes and brochures and wrote a song about green homes.

Their project mission: how to find more innovative ways to help someone learn. 

Teams also designed and built a robot and then programmed their robot to complete missions on a playing field.

Luoma is especially proud of the Math Magicians’ teamwork award, as teamwork is a key league core value and a comprehensive honor covering several categories.

“That’s the great thing about robotics,” said Luoma: “It’s not judged just on one thing; it’s judged on many things.”

Criteria included how well teams learned and demonstrated life skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, creativity, problem solving, communication and understanding technology.

Blow said the competition was divided into three parts: demonstrating Legos core values; creating and completing a project mission; and building a robot and completing specific missions with that robot.

Luoma, a reading coach, was inspired by her own children. A $920 Butte Education Foundation grant to Margaret Leary helped form the robotics team, too, she said.

“As a parent , I started the club at Hillcrest eight years ago so my girls could do it,” said Luoma.”Then I started it at Margaret Leary.”

While the local teams fared well in their respective categories, the Building Joes placed 22nd out of 59 teams in the robot competition, the final contest. Lego Robo Bros of St. Andrew High School in Helena won first place overall.

Robot design tests teams and individuals on specific, timed Legos building projects.

“There’s a lot of problem-solving in that,” added Luoma, who volunteers  “to give my own kids the opportunity because it’s such a great program.”

Building Joes members are Carson Barry and Grant Smith, sixth grade; Ethan McGillen, fifth; Jimmy Blow, Hunter Holms and Zach Tierney, fourth grade. Kent Smith and Matt Rachor helped coach.

The Math Magicians placed 20th out of 60 teams in robotics. Team members: Luke Anderson, Brennen Field, Heaven Jarvis and Trey Whitlock, fifth grade; Garrett Edwards, Josie Jarvis, Madeline Spear, Alex Speer, Ryan Tomich and Reid Whitlock, fourth grade; Majessa Booth and Jack Luoma, third grade.

“Our team had never done that before, so I think 20th place is incredible,” added Coach Luoma.


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Education Reporter who also covers features at The Montana Standard, I am a Cascade-Ulm-Great Falls native. Originally a sports writer, I wrote for the Missoulian and the Great Falls Tribune. I freelanced for The Seattle Times and other NW publications.

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