HOUGHTON - It was, in many ways, a typical Lego League practice for Houghton Middle School students - the tinkering with robots, the scrambling for parts.
But there was one crucial difference: Their parents were watching.
The Lego League club held their inaugural parents night Wednesday. New coach Mark Peters said the night was a way to show parents what was going on, as well as to give the kids a friendly audience for their required presentation to the community.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Casey LaBelle, left, and Anton Smirnov, members of the Houghton Middle School’s Lego League club, watches their robot during a Wednesday practice. For more photos, visit cu.mininggazette.com.
Nineteen Houghton students on two teams have been working on their projects since the second week of school in preparations for regionals, which will be held Nov. 7 at Northern Michigan University.
Each year, students design robots using Lego kits to complete specific tasks; this year, the activities are built around transportation. The Michigan Technological University Transportation Institute is helping to sponsor this year's team.
Students are judged equally on the quality of their design, how well the robots perform their tasks, presentation of a solution to a research problem and teamwork.
"The kids are learning a lot," Peters said. "Math and science skills are coming into play in the projects, and they've definitely been building their problem-solving skills."
In addition to demonstrating their robots, students gave presentations on transportation-related ideas.
One team came up with a concept named Rent-A-Ped, in which there would be stations of motorized pedal bicycles around town. Afterwards, parents chipped in with questions ranging from security measures to the length of time the bikes would be used.
Jon and Kathy Lund, who have two children on the team, were impressed.
"I think it's very exciting, and I'm sure this is going to affect them for the rest of their lives," Kathy said. "It's a good thing to participate in."
Team member Cami Harris said the night was a good way to bring the community to them.
"It gives us some practice, so we know what to expect," she said. "I think it really helped out the new people."
Teammate Lucas Panasiewicz agreed.
"I think it was helpful that they came here, and helpful because we had to talk to the community," he said.
Garrett Neese can be reached at gneese @mininggazette.com.