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Students show off knowledge at 'Disaster Blaster'

BATAVIA – About 75 students and their parents gathered at Fermilab on Saturday to show off miniature versions of some epic events.

The students, ages 6 through 9, formed 15 teams to participate in the second annual Batavia Junior First Lego League Open House.

For the 2013-14 theme of “Disaster Blaster,” teams explored natural disasters and used Legos and motorized parts to display the effects that a disaster can have on communities.

The natural disaster theme resonated further with the students when one of their weekly meetings was canceled in October because of inclement weather, said Dee Karabowicz, open house organizer and operator of the first- through third-grade divisions of Fox Valley Robotics.

“I think disasters really thrill people – learning about them is very interesting,” Karabowicz said. “This topic … is a real-world topic for them.”

Each team was allowed one disaster to focus on and whether team members wanted to portray it before, during or after its presence in a community. Most students, such as Nathan Kilmer, 9, chose to portray a natural disaster in the act.

Kilmer, a third-grader at Heartland Elementary School in Geneva, explained for his Mass Destruction team how they used one motor to move a tornado made of black Legos toward a house and another motor to move the house off its foundation to represent the tornado’s force.

Kilmer liked this year’s theme better than last year because he said it involved more mechanics.
“I like how we always work together and always make something that’s pretty good,” Kilmer said.

His team’s model, poster board and presentation were the result of about 32 hours of teamwork Sundays from September to this month. The Masters of Disasters team worked a similar schedule to complete their volcano.

The Masters team used bright red Lego pieces to represent the melted liquid rock known as magma. Then magma is called lava when it rises to the surface, said Hannah Kraus, 8, a second-grader at Munhall Elementary School in St. Charles.

While some of her teammates were undecided about another year in junior robotics, Kraus plans to continue participating.

“I’m into Legos and building stuff,” Hannah said. “We have a whole Lego table that we use at home.”
The students will continue to show off their creations through February at a few more open houses, Karabowicz said.

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