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Friday, September 11th, 2009

New Bremen pupils teaming up in race for success

By Margie Wuebker

Megan Krieg and Dominic Steinke check out the battery-powered race car they buil. . .

NEW BREMEN - Elementary students in the New Bremen school district are learning the importance of working together toward a mutual goal - building race cars that can race across the gym floor toward the finish line.
They use neither textbooks nor high-tech equipment, just nimble fingers, an illustrated guide and plastic building blocks in assorted shapes, sizes and colors.
Kendra Post of St. Henry, who has been trained by Lego Engineering of Sparta, Mich., to bring the program to schools, enjoys working with youngsters in grades kindergarten through 3 as part of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program.
STEM typically worked with older students, but grant money this year brings it to the primary level.
Students Dominic Steinke and Megan Krieg head to their assigned work space to check out the neatly arranged tray of colorful components that they must turn into a car.
"I am r-e-a-l-l-y good at Legos," Steinke announces. "I kinda like doing all the work. Is that OK with you?"
Krieg, who hopes to be a teacher one day, listens quietly before gently reminding him, "We're supposed to work together."
Steinke assigns the girl to locate tiny pieces of the wheel assembly as he works on the frame. She picks through various compartments and emerges with the needed parts.
"Are you talking about these?" she asks. He looks at the parts and nods affirmatively before replying, "Hey, you're pretty good for a girl."
He confidently assigns more tasks, which she successfully completes. The pair progress from start to finish with few problems before moving down the table to help neighbors Katie Howell and Zach Bertke.
"We were doing great until we jumped ahead a couple of pages and put on the fat part," she explains. "So we took it off and started over."
One by one the teams complete the appointed task, some encountering more problems than others. Not all the complications occur during the construction phase.
Teammates Estella Hainline, Elisa Alt and Anne Marie Duncan watch as their car stays put despite the hopeful whirring of their battery-powered engine.
"We've got a big problem here," Alt says as her teammates nod in agreement. "I think we should put the big wheels in front and the smaller ones in back."
Hainline consults the guide and reports the wheels are fine. With help from Post, they diagnose the problem as poor contact requiring nothing more than a gentle squeeze at the right place.
"Now that wasn't so hard," Duncan declares as they cast lots to see who drives and who cheers from the sidelines.
The big race commences with Post calling "Go!" Ten cars take off along the appointed course. The Steinke/Krieg team finishes first with Bertke and Howell coming in a close second.
There are no trophies, burnouts or other hoopla. The students, according to Post, come away with something far more important - lessons on the value of teamwork and collaboration.
"I learned that working together is fun," Krieg says. "Two people can do something faster than just one person."
Bertke ponders the same question regarding what he learned and smiles broadly before replying, "I learned how to build a race car out of Legos."
Griffin Huber says he learned a "whole bunch of neat stuff," such as the bigger the engine is, the faster the car goes and about aerodynamics (air races over something that is rounded rather than rectangular).
"And one last thing," he says with a mischievous grin. "Check the batteries because you aren't going anywhere if they're dead."
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