Clockwise from top left, second grader Dylan Schoof, fourth grader Isabella Galea, fourth grader Michael Mondry, third grader Edward Francesco Lonardo, third grader Mikey Loranger and second grader Isaac Charrette work on the school the team is building for its FIRST Lego League Junior expo.

Clockwise from top left, second grader Dylan Schoof, fourth grader Isabella Galea, fourth grader Michael Mondry, third grader Edward Francesco Lonardo, third grader Mikey Loranger and second grader Isaac Charrette work on the school the team is building for its FIRST Lego League Junior expo.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


New robotics program teaches students STEM skills

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 2, 2019

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Aiming to build interest in STEM, St. Isaac Jogues Catholic School has three new FIRST Lego League Junior teams, which will be competing in their first expo Dec. 7.

Derek Loranger, the coach of Team Buddy Bots, said that he was approached by Ronald Manningham, the school’s team administrator, about being a coach at the beginning of the year. With the number of parents who were willing to be volunteer coaches, the school was able to form three teams of students who learn about science, technology, engineering and math through building with Legos throughout the season.

Along with the students and parent coaches, the school also has students from the International Academy of Macomb, or IAM, volunteering as student mentors during the season.

IAM senior Nathan Cahilig, of Warren, said he is enjoying helping the students figure things out each week.

“One of the things I like about the FIRST program (is) it’s about inspiring others to pursue STEM,” he said. “It’s not boring. Anyone can do it.”

Over the course of 12 weeks, the students talked about the accessibility of buildings in preparation of building their own school out of Legos, which includes a robotic elevator.

The students have focused on learning the building aspects of the project — accessibility, environmental friendliness and durability — along with the FIRST Core Values: discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun.

“The league actually has a very specific syllabus that they give us in terms of what each group should be doing on a weekly basis,” Loranger said. “They send us videos and there is an app that we download that shows us how to program the robotic part of it.”

The students had to make sure that their building is accessible and structurally sound, Loranger explained. He said that at the beginning, he wasn’t sure what to expect, but “once they started building their actual project, I was really impressed with how everything came together and how they worked together.”

Loranger said his son, Michael, is enjoying himself. He’s a “big Lego fanatic.”

“I think the teamwork ... he enjoys, and being able to use his imagination without necessarily having a guidebook to go by,” he said.

Shenley Sommers, a 7-year-old second grader in the program, said that she is looking forward to the expo.

“The judges are going to be there, and they’re going to judge our poster and our city. I just want to be a part (of the team) because I love what we do here.”

Her father, Nick Sommers, of St. Clair Shores, is another coach at the school. He said that he sees what they’re doing as the future, so he wanted his children to be a part of it.

This is “innovation and where education is going, and I didn’t want us to miss that opportunity,” he said.

He said that it’s challenging getting the young students to understand the bigger picture, but they’re learning teamwork and cooperation by being a part of the group.

“I think it will grow from here, because we seem to have a lot of interest and the kids seem to be having a lot of fun,” Loranger said.