LEGO Squad: Private junior robotics team to compete in regional competition
The Lego Squad of Ahwatukee consisting of Brandon Vigesaa, 11, Jonathan Lesi, 10, Spencer Williams, 11, and Stephanie Tkacik, 10, run their hauler through a few test fine tuning it for the competition this weekend.

Since the beginning of September, three Horizon Community Learning Center students and one Kyrene de la Estrella Elementary School student have met for up to 10 hours each week and worked together toward one common goal. They call themselves the Lego Squad, and their goal is to compete in the First Lego League state competition Dec. 15. "They've almost become like brothers and sisters," Gail Lesio, mother of Horizon student Jonathan Lesio, said of Lego Squad team members Brandon Vigesaa, 11, Stephanie Tkacik, 10, Spencer Williams, 11, and Jonathan, 10. According to First Lego Squad's Web site, the goal of the program is to inspire young people to become science and technology leaders. In Arizona, 110 teams will compete Dec. 8 at three regional competitions, hoping to score high enough to compete at state. Competitions are composed of two parts. "First is how well your team's robot performs doing up to 10 missions," Lego Squad coach Peter Lesio said. "The team members build a Lego Mind Storm robot and program it to perform different missions pertaining to the theme." This year the theme is Power Puzzle - Energy Resources - Meeting the Global Demand. "Second is the team's score on their five-minute presentation to the judges," Peter said. "This year's project is to complete an energy assessment on a municipal building. Our team visited the fire station at Chandler Boulevard and 40th Street." The Lego Squad completed an energy assessment on Fire Station 43 Oct. 27 and will be making recommendations on how to improve the station's energy use at regionals Saturday. The team will present its findings by reciting a play script written by Tkacik. "This is the second play I've written," Tkacik said excitedly at the team's meeting Wednesday. "Our team used many resources for our research," Vigesaa said during a practice presentation. "We visited the APS power station and talked to renewable energy expert Mrs. Janet Crow. We also used the Internet." The Lego Squad said the most important energy-use problem they found at the station was its 16 air-conditioning units, which are five years old and have a 10 SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. In today's standards the minimum rating required is 13 SEER, which is 30 percent more efficient. "It would take 50 years to pay off how much it would take to replace the air conditioning," Jonathan said. The Lego Squad's short-term solution is to purchase awnings, a window covering placed on the outside of the building to shield the sun and reduce cooling by up to 21 percent. They also explored options, including the use of Energy Star appliances and fluorescent and solar lighting. Although the team enjoyed their research, they agree working on the robot is their favorite aspect of the competition. "It came with instructions, but we decided to go off on our own and make our own robot," Vigesaa said. In November the team participated in a scrimmage in Queen Creek. They placed second out of 11 teams. "We want to go to the state finals and see how it goes from there," Jonathan said. For more information, visit www.firstlegoleague.org.

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