Academics Extracurricular Activities Students

LEGOs: Linking Learning, Creativity and Fun

"Fawntastic Deer Dudes" pose for a group photo.

This year for the first time, all four Ladue Schools elementary schools participated in FIRSTLEGO® League, a worldwide competition where teams of students ages 9 to 14 are challenged to research real-world problems and devise a workable solution over the course of eight weeks. The groups must also design, build and program a LEGO robot to complete a mission through an obstacle course, all while learning how to work together and draw from one another’s strengths.

The purpose behind FIRSTLEGO is to actively engage student creativity while they apply Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) concepts. The “FIRST” in FIRSTLEGO represents: For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

This year’s competition theme was “Animal Allies” with each team being given the tasks of identifying a way in which the lives of animals and humans intersect, researching a common issue and then brainstorming about how animals and people can help one another.

FIRSTLEGO League is part of the fall curriculum at the elementary level for students participating in Idea Lab. However, parents can also lead teams outside of school for students in grades 4-8. This year’s teams included:

  • Two Spoede Elementary School teams, led by Kathie Dolan (teacher)
  • Two Reed Elementary School teams, led by Karen Engelkenjohn (teacher)
  • One Conway Elementary School team, led by Lindsay Lombardo (teacher)
  • One Old Bonhomme Elementary School team, led by Tammy Maclean (teacher)
  • One Fifth Grade Center team, co-coached by parents Gaurav Suri and Sonali Jain
  • Two Ladue Middle School teams, one sixth grade and one seventh grade, coached by parents Madhari Chali and Jeff Howe

When the 2016-17 season wrapped up, Ladue Schools’ FIRSTLEGO League teams had won the following awards:

  • Reed Elementary teams “Creative Cows Creating Coupons” and “Next Generation Super Pigs” won the Core Values Awards
  • Spoede Elementary team “Masked Bandits” won the Championship Award — earning an invitation to the Eastern Missouri Championship
  • Spoede Elementary team for “Fawntastic Deer Dudes” won the Project Name Award
  • Fifth Grade Center team “The Little Piggies” won the Robot Design Award

The Ladue School District’s participation in FIRSTLEGO League began eight years ago when Reed Elementary School Teacher Karen Engelkenjohn led one of only four experimental teams in the St. Louis area. This year, more than 150 teams competed in 12 expos in the St. Louis area. At the high school level, this experience expands to more complex robots. Our high school’s robotics team “Rambunction” also competes annually in the FIRST Robotics competitions.

Spoede Elementary’s Fawntastic Deer Dudes

This team of students tackled the problem of deer being hit by vehicles on local streets. They learned that deer see a larger spectrum of light than people do, which led them to determine that motion-sensored infrared lights turned away from the road could be set up to startle deer away from streets in areas where they are most often hit by cars. The students called Town & Country’s Mayor Jon Dalton to set up a meeting to share their idea.


Top Row (l to r): Katherine Myckatyn, Zoe Tenenbaum, Isabella Huang, Emma Bangert, Lauren Clay, Natalie Wolk, and Maya Zigo.

Bottom Row (l to r): Atharva Shinde, Sohan Maganty, Brody Sandler, Sahil Chatwal, David Deffry, Logan Elick, Jonathan Yao, and Anderson Dai.