Lego Mini-Play Preps Teams and Robots for State Competition


By Chabella Guzman, UNL PREEC communications

The Panhandle Research Extension and Education Center in Scottsbluff played host to the Lego White Region – MiniPlay on Feb. 24. The event offered a trial run for Panhandle area Lego teams to learn more about the rules of competition and work out some kinks in their robots. 

“Mini-plays are an opportunity to learn from one another and get out a lot of those pre-competition jitters before the big event,” said Nathan Rice, Nebraska Extension 4-H educator. The mini-play had ten teams in trials on Saturday, but not every team was able to make it, and some also had missing members. The team from Bridgeport had only one member make it for the event.

“It’s a little bit of a challenge, as I don’t have another person to help me set it together or have the placements,” said Brynn Little, a fifth grader from Bridgeport. She couldn’t get her robot to work in the first round, but in the second round, she did much better. The mini-play is the first time Little has competed.

Completing her round with a high score, Brynn Little, center, of Bridgeport, gets a high-five from a fan. Photo by Chabella Guzman

“I like the technology, and it helps with real-world learning. With Legos, (you) learn how to build, and with tech, (you) learn how to make a robot move and lift up stuff,” Little said. “It seems pretty awesome to learn two different things at once and still excel in both of them at the same time.” 

Abigail Martens, a fifth-grader from Sidney, would agree with Little. She became part of the Lego Sidney team to learn how to program. “They looked really cool how they moved around and how we control them,” she said. “I like accomplishing things I don’t care if we win, as long as we learn.”

Abigail Martens, left, and the crowd watch as her robot heads out on its mission. Photo by Chabella Guzman

Each team came prepared to get the most out of the practice event. They had their robot and attachments, codes to use during the robot games, and computers to practice coding. While some teams were full of rookie members, others had members in their second year. Cole Shimp was one such member of the Gummy Republic and a fifth grader at Bluffs Middle School in Scottsbluff.

Cole Shimp, right, gets some pointers on the Gummy Republic robot from Nathan Rice during the Lego White Region – MiniPlay. Photo by Chabella Guzman

“This year, we have a jig on our robot, which we didn’t have last year, and it helps it (robot) line up,” Shimp said. “We also added innovative attachments that complete missions, like an arm with an elbow. It doesn’t have a motor but pushes up sound mixer levels, a complicated mission, but (we) solved it with pretty simple attachments.”

The Saturday was busy, with students cheering on their teammates and friends. Everyone had come prepared to win but also to have fun. “We stick to the core values of 4-H. We all get along and have fun,” Shimp said.