Students compete in largest lego tournament ever held in Essex County

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Leena Shaya and some school friends spent most of Sunday playing with Lego.

What they brought to their play date, however, went way beyond a simple block house or tower.

Shaya and her friends were part of a 10-student team from L.A. Desmarais elementary school taking part in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Lego League tournament held over the weekend at St. Clair College.

Thirty-three teams participated making the weekend event the largest FIRST tournament ever held in Essex County.

“It’ll be even bigger next year,” said Windsor-Essex FIRST mentor Sheri Lynn Koscielski.

The first FIRST competition for local grade school kids was held just three years ago and attracted nine teams. Last year, entries more than doubled to 23 teams.

This weekend’s event was the first for Desmarais.

“I’m not that good at building but I am interested in building things,” 11-year-old Shaya said. “And I like to research. We work together and do a lot of projects.”

Each team had previously built a working robot that they programmed to carry out specific tasks or missions on a banquet-sized table containing more Lego structures.

The goal is to complete as many of the 10 missions laid out on the table as possible in just 2 1/2 minutes.

Teams compete against each other with the one earning the most points being declared the winner.

There were three components to the competition. Each group had to show how effectively they work as a team by completing a random mission. They also had to present an environmentally significant project.

One team focused on battery disposal while Shaya’s team discussed the merits of reusable aluminum bottles for water as opposed to plastic. Their presentation included a skit and slide show.

“We’re rookies at this,” Desmarais teacher and robotics coach Jennifer Gillis said. “It’s been great and they’ve learned so much.”

The Desmarais crew was culled from Grades 6 and 7. They met every day at lunch to practice their missions and every Tuesday after school.

All the missions revolved around environmentally friendly initiatives such as recycling and repurposing. One mission saw a robot return aquatic animals to the ocean and another had the robot take waste material to the landfill and recyclable material to a sorter.

“The best part is watching the team work and problem solving,” Gillis said.

High school robotics team students served as judges.

Anyone interested in learning more about the league or in sponsoring a team can contact Koscielski at or at

Click here to see the original article in the Windsor Star.