Legos help young man from Overland Park share engineering concepts with urban KC kids

08/11/2014 6:37 PM

08/11/2014 6:38 PM

DonDale Fields is pretty good at following the instructions. Sam Fink likes the challenge of coming up with solutions. Legos and levers brought the two together for an end of the summer camp last week at Operation Breakthrough.

Fields was one of about a dozen Kansas City school district students in the summer program at Operation Breakthrough who participated in a half-day Lego camp put on by Sam and a group of fellow seventh-graders at Overland Trail Middle School in Overland Park.

The morning was about stepping up imagination and learning a little bit about the possibilities of technology with a favorite toy.

Sam is about to become a Bar Mitzvah. As a part of that process he was asked to do a Mitzvah project, which represents a part of a basic tenent of Judaism, called tzedakah, which teaches the importance of contributing to the community.

He decided to use Legos to pass on what he has learned about machines, robotics and imaginative problem solving as a part of his participation in the FIRST Lego League. The initiative challenges fourth- through eighth-grade students to focus on robotics and innovative solutions to real-world problems.

Sam likes Lego building blocks because their possibilities are endless.

“You can do anything with them. You can create anything, and you have so much room for creativity and adjustment,” he said.

For the kids at Operation Breakthrough, Sam and several members of his FIRST Lego League team focused on the basics of Legos and robotics. They encouraged creative building and taught the first-graders about six simple machines: the pulley, wedge, inclined plane, screw, level and wheel.

“We use them in everyday life, and it’s just such a big deal now-days. So, you should have a little bit of a basic education in it. You should know how stuff works. That’s how I see it,” Sam said.

Usually, DonDale favors building with Legos while following the instructions. So, giving them up to do an “Imagination Build” with just 20 blocks was a bit out of his comfort zone.

“It was hard,” he said.

DonDale said he’d like to go back to the instructions, but he did enjoy learning how simple machines work, especially the pulley and the screw.

Operation Breakthrough’s first-grade summer school teacher, Etagetn O’Neil, says the benefit of this type of experience goes beyond simple science education.

“It’s very therapeutic for my kids. There’s a lot going on in their lives. For someone to take the time to come in and work with them with an activity like this is just mind-blowing. They enjoy it so much,” said O’Neil.

The kids also got to see a robotics demonstration and learn more about projects that the FIRST Lego League team has tackled. Operation Breakthrough students also took home their own new Lego sets, thanks to donations that Sam received in support of the project.

Sam will become a Bar Mitzvah in October at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah in Overland Park.

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