Carson City’s Aerobricktopians set for Legoland competition
April 14, 2017
What happens when you mash Aerosmith, LEGO bricks, and a utopia into one?
You get Carson City's Aerobricktopians, a LEGO League involving four boys from ages 10-12, proudly wearing animal hoodies as a signature.
Also, they're heading to Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif., May 17-19, to compete against 80 international teams in the North American Invitational.
"Our team has core values," said team member Ashton Erickson. "The most important one is have fun. If we get a trophy, wow. But we don't care about the rest. We made it to Legoland, so that's amazing."
LEGO Leagues have four areas of focus when it comes to crafting the perfect robot for battle, and project to present: design, performance, project, and team core values.
The invitation to compete was followed by their first competition when the team received a Rising Star Award.
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This award is given to teams that are perceived to thrive in the future, as part of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program.
Most FIRST teams are established through schools, such as Eagle Valley Middle School's LEGO League and Carson High School's FIRST robotics team.
But what sets the Aerobricktopians apart is they're an independent community group with no school affiliation, including two coaches and two mentors.
The team won the overall championship in the Carson City qualifier first competition this season.
"It's unique of what's going on in Carson City," said coach Marco Erickson, Ashton's father. "There's a future generation of kids here that are going to soar in math, science, and computer programming."
Along with Ashton, Erickson's second son, Kelton, is also part of the team. Kelton enjoys the programming aspect while Ashton focuses on presenting the project at Legoland.
As part of FIRST challenges, team members participated in the Animal Allies themed competition in 2016. The project they developed there has inspired them to make improvements and present it at Legoland as a challenge — a separate competition from robot battles.
The team developed a social science project that focuses on incorporating animals with human emotions. The goal is to distribute the idea throughout schools, as a way for teachers to recognize life situations a student may be going through, as a way to optimistically reduce bullying and suicide, and increase empathy.
Erickson said the team demonstrated the project at Carson Montessori School.
"It's an a universal approach, adaptable for any country and language to use," he said. "We hope it will connect people together."
Here's how it works: each student is provided a laminated sheet of paper with images of animals, symbolizing a mood. For example, a tiger's roar would indicate anger, while a koala represents sleepiness.
Before class begins, students place a sticker on an animal that best relates to how they're currently feeling, and turn it in. Results are confidential and only the teacher can review it.
There also are different levels of risk students can show; the student has an option to put their name on the back of the page to indicate they need to talk.
Or, Erickson said students also have the option to present their feeling to the class and why.
The key is to spread awareness for teachers. Erickson said the most popular response they received from the trial class is the koala — a possible indicator students may need to sleep more at night.
"We received great feedback from the school," he said. "It's just to gauge where people are at."
In order to strengthen the core values aspect, Erickson said all members are involved with activities outside of the league, such as sports, music, and community service. These activities help develop core values outside of competition and develop character.
"We have a highly competitive team," he said. "To them, going to this competition should feel like an award."
Two other robotic teams of Northern Nevada – the Jedi Engineers and Rolling Bots – will join the Aerobricktopians in Legoland and support one another.
"There aren't high expectations," he said. "I know the team is super talented and they have the ability to do things and go far."
The team also includes Michael McDonald, Tyler Williams, and coach Larry McDonald.
The team is hosting a fundraiser online for their trip to Legoland, with a goal of $3,750.
Erickson said remaining dollars will be donated to Carson High School's Team Captain FIRST robotics team, to help with expenses for the World Championships in Houston on April 19.
To donate to the Aerobricktopians, visit gofundme.com/aerobricktopian-fll-team.