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Double The Fun When Twins Compete in Lego Robotics

Feb 13, 2015 06:07PM ● Published by Julie Slama

After the Jan. 10 First Lego League regional competition in Murray, the Lego Bender team and coaches are all smiles. Photo courtesy of Jason Andrus

Two sets of twins recently teamed up to compete at the state First Lego robotics competition and showed that double the fun could win one of the coveted tournament awards.

At the Utah First Lego League state championships Jan. 31, the Lego Benders won the teamwork core value award. This came after winning the Jan. 10 regional competition at Murray High and also being honored with the champions’ award.

The Lego Benders team consisted of twins Hannah and Brandt Zollinger of Murray, and their cousins, twins Dallin and Aubrey Andrus of Riverton.  The Zollinger twins are seventh-graders at Riverview Junior High and the Riverton fifth-graders attend American Preparatory Academy in Draper. They were coached by their parents, Jason Andrus and Justin and Christy Zollinger.

“They were pretty consistent all the way across the competition,” Lego judge adviser Jeff Martin said after the competition Jan. 10.  “They performed well in every area.”

The First Lego League competition allows students from ages 9 to 14 to compete and receive judges’ comments and scores in core values, a project and robot design and performance.  

Students solved challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. Through the competition, the students applied real-world math and science concepts, researched challenges, learned critical thinking, team-building and presentation skills and had fun competing in tournaments.

Murray Parks and Recreation Director Cory Plant said the city began hosting the competition four years ago as another opportunity to get kids involved in activities.

“It’s a great program that gives students who have aspirations in computers and science a chance to pursue it and have fun,” he said. 

It was such an opportunity for Hannah.

“I learned more about programming, and if I decide I want to pursue a career in engineering, I’m learning skills that can help my future,” she said. 

Her twin, Brandt, had competed on a team two years ago and learned basic programming.

“We built this robot more advanced than my other team, so I’ve learned more about programming and have had a chance to work together to do more,” he said.

Dallin and Aubrey’s older sister had competed so they wanted a chance to compete.

“It’s really great doing it with our cousins because we have all sorts of fun,” Dallin said.

Their project was creative, combining the twins’ ideas.  They role played how to invest smartly and save their money by comparing it with superheroes cooking bread successfully versus a villain’s recipe turning sour, coach Christy Zollinger said.

“Hannah and Aubrey suggested cooking as a project.  Then we asked what is hard to learn at school and they said ‘Finances, because it’s boring,’ so they combined those together, and Brandt loves superheroes, so that got added in.  It was just a fun idea that they had and suggested creating videos on YouTube to share it with others,” she said.

Although the project and robotic design had to be the team’s own work, it worked well as Jason Andrus is an electrical engineer with IM flash, which sponsored the team. Justin Zollinger works as an accountant, so the fathers could advise their children.

“It has just been a lot of fun and learning, and I’m so glad I got to do it with my family,” Hannah said.       
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