FIRST Lego League robotics competition

Gilpin’s Construction Pirates earns 6th place from 23 teams

By Debra Benitez

More than 20 teams competed in the FIRST Lego League Qualifier at Moore Middle School on November 23, 2019. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is the worldwide, nonprofit organization advancing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Throughout their FIRST experience, students gain maturity, build self-confidence, and learn teamwork. Students have fun while building a network of friends and coaches.

The Gilpin County Public Library, in cooperation with the Gilpin County Extension Services sent a team of five students to this year’s competition. Dylan Bleiler, Nathan Sibray, Makaela Johnson, Liam Mackley, Tom LaRocca, and their robot Tobby made up the Construction Pirates. This year’s theme was City Shapers. Students learned about how cities and buildings grow, thrive, and change. They discussed new and innovative solutions to help shape the future of their community. They used the information they gained to tackle one problem they saw within our community. The FIRST Lego League sponsors the competition that includes four parts: Robot Design, Core Values, Innovation Project, and the Robot Games. The Construction Pirates are a first year team with students ranging in age from 8-11 years old. The Pirates are coached by Kirsten Springer and Debbie Benitez.

With only 9-10 weeks of prep time, the Pirates were able to build their robot, get started on their innovation project, and program their robot to complete five of the 13 assigned missions. Countless hours were spent researching their project, refining the robot design, developing attachments, and coding their robot to complete each mission.

For their innovation project the students chose to redesign the current Gilpin County Elementary School playground to include more inclusive structures accessible to all students. They hope to continue working on their project throughout the school year and present their findings to the school administration later in the year.

The FIRST Core Values are the cornerstones of the program. Students demonstrated these values as they worked together to accomplish the City Shaper tasks. These values include:

–Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.

–Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.

–Impact:  We apply what we learn to improve our world.

–Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.

–Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.

–Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!

During the Robot Games each team had to navigate, capture, transport, activate, or deliver objects on a city map. The teams and their robot had 2½ minutes to complete as many missions as possible. The Construction Pirates attempted five of the 13 missions and successfully completed four of those missions for a high score of 240 points. This score earned them 6th place position of the 23 teams that competed. Well done Construction Pirates!

The Construction Pirates will continue to work on their innovation project and programming their robots to complete the rest of the City Shaper missions. They will bring their robots and competition board to the Gilpin County Fair next summer to exhibit their project and robot skills. For more information about FIRST Lego League programs, visit

The Gilpin County Public Library currently offers Robotics classes for ages 6-8 and 9-14. If you are interested in participating in Robotics at the Library, please check out our website at, or call the Library at 303-582-0161 for more information.

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