Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

December 18, 2010

Koinonia team wins top award at FIRST LEGO League Tournament

“Lego Powers!” competes at Columbus State University

AMERICUS — Teamwork, creative thinking and a bit of drama is what it took for the Americus-based “Lego Powers!” to win the Overall Project Award at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Columbus State University Qualifier tournament on Dec. 11, 2010.

The team received a trophy to commemorate their achievement. They also earned the opportunity to participate in the semi-regional competition to be held Jan. 8, 2011, in Warner Robins, Ga.

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international program for 9- to 16-year-old children (9 to 14 in the U.S. and Canada) created in a partnership between FIRST and The LEGO Group in 1998 to get children excited about science and technology – and teach them valuable employment and life skills.

Children work alongside adult mentors to design, build and program autonomous robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS technologies and create an innovative solution to a problem as part of their research project. After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments. Like any other organized “sport,” teams also fundraise, create a team identity and go on field trips.

Children and their coaches from 17 teams gathered at the event, held at Columbus State University, to celebrate science and technology and present their biomedical engineering solutions as part of the FLL “Body Forward” challenge. The competition was judged in four areas: project presentation; robot performance; technical design and programming of the robot; and teamwork, with a consideration of the FLL core values.

The Overall Project Award is presented to the team whose quality research, innovative solutions, efforts sharing with the community, and creative presentation best reflect an in-depth understanding of the various scientific disciplines and issues involved with the project. The “Lego Powers!” team chose to research peanut allergies and invented a wristband that would alert allergy sufferers to the presence of peanuts in their food. The team presented their research and invention through a play which dramatized the problem of peanut allergies.

“As a rookie team, we were expecting to learn, but not to win,” said Michelle Dalva, coach of Lego Powers. “To win first place among so many talented teams was a huge surprise and thrill. We’re looking forward to competing at the next level.”

The Lego Powers team is comprised of students from the Koinonia Home School Cooperative. Team members included Ryan Mournighan, 10; Eric Dalva, 9; Grace Dalva, 9; Ian Wynn, 9; Maya Wynn, 7; and Heather Thornburgh, 9. Assistant coaches are Levi Lyman-Barner and Peter Dalva.

The Koinonia Home School Cooperative is a group of home schooling families who meet at Koinonia Farm to educate their children in academics and life skills. The children, ranging in age from 3 to 15, learn together in small groups, provide service to the larger community and share in Koinonia's vision: love through service to others, peace through reconciliation and joy through generous hospitality.

Currently in its twelfth year, FIRST LEGO League anticipates its biggest season ever, with more than 170,000 children in more than 50 countries competing in hundreds of qualifying tournaments and championship tournaments. Eighty-four teams will also have the opportunity to participate at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, to be held in conjunction with the FIRST Championship, April 27-30, 2011, at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills, while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering.

With support from three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and more than $12 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) for high-school students, FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for 9- to 14-year-olds (9- to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada), and Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) for 6- to 9-year-olds. Gracious Professionalism is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to To learn more about the “Body Forward” Challenge, go to

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