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Junior engineers compete in state finals for Lego robotic competition

Gig Harbor Academy’s Eagles Force 3 team is the first robotics team from the school to advance to the state finals for the Western Washington State Regional First Lego League Tournament. The team consists of teacher Jeff Funk, Aidan McDougall, left, Kodiak Bear, center, and Reed Karegenow.
Gig Harbor Academy’s Eagles Force 3 team is the first robotics team from the school to advance to the state finals for the Western Washington State Regional First Lego League Tournament. The team consists of teacher Jeff Funk, Aidan McDougall, left, Kodiak Bear, center, and Reed Karegenow. Courtesy

Combine Legos and robots, add a dash of science, months of research and years of teamwork and you have the trio of junior engineers from Gig Harbor Academy (GHA) known as team Eagle Force 3.

Eagle Force 3 competed Saturday in Kent at the state finals for the Western Washington State Regional First Lego League Tournament, becoming the first robotics team from GHA to qualify for the state finals.

The team consisted of Aidan McDougall, 11; Reed Karegenow, 11; and Kodiak Bear, 11; along with teacher and coach Jeff Funk.

“We’ve been working since September to make it,” Funk said of the team. “The competition is pretty steep.”

While Eagle Force 3 didn’t win the competition — which also doesn’t provide rankings to the teams to see how they did in the competition — team member were excited and proud of being the first GHA team to attend the state finals.

First Lego League was designed to get students more involved with STEM — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics — by combining Lego Mindstorms with engineering to solve real problems in today’s world, with a different theme every year.

“First Lego League is really just a competition about bringing people together to find solutions for real work problems,” Kodiak said. “(And) to be inspired by some engineering type things.”

This year’s contest was called “Trash Trek,” and the theme focused on recycling.

According to Funk, the Lego robots and games at the competition are only 20 percent of the overall score; the rest of the score comes from the programming and research the teams do alongside the robotics.

Eagle Force 3 decided to research the effects plastic soda rings — used to hold six packs of cans together — have on the environment and provided ways for the environmental impact to be lessened.

“It’s a way to reduce trash and help the environment,” Reed said of the competition and research. “(And) learning to work together.”

“We scored very high on the robots,” Aidan added.

The three boys have graduated from GHA — which has enrollment up to fifth grade — and are now in the sixth grade in the Peninsula School District. Aidan and Kodiak attend Goodman Middle School and Reed goes to Kopachuck.

The three come back to GHA for the Lego robotics club taught by Funk, who encourages them in engineering, programming and problem-solving. This encouragement is well received by the trio, who are already forming plans for their future careers, especially Kodiak, who has his sights set on NASA.

Aidan and Reed are a little less certain.

“Inventors, probably,” Aidan said, and Reed agreed he planned on something engineering-based.

Gig Harbor Academy is a private school for children age 2 to fifth grade, located on 10 acres in Gig Harbor.

Andrea Haffly: 253-358-4155, @gateway_andrea

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