Gunnison Middle School Gear Up
teams to compete with Legos
By Linda Petersen
Feb. 15, 2018
GUNNISON—Two teams from Gunnison Valley Middle School are heading to St. George on Saturday, Feb. 24, to compete in the First LEGO League South State Championship” at Dixie State University.
First LEGO League teams are LEGO robotics teams, and the Bionic Babes of Gunnison Valley Middle School—Noelle Condie, Sage Bjerregaard, Sarah Liddiard, Michelle Mellor and Gracie Mickelsen—took first place overall in the Jan. 20 Southern Utah University regional qualifier against 33 other teams.
A second team from the middle school, Nerd Alert—Bryant Shell, Bridger Stevens, Dylan Anderson, Brayden Sanderson, Will Wescott, Eli Lambertson and Stockton Broderick—took first place in core values.
Both teams were judged in four categories: core values, robot games, project solving and robot design.
In problem solving, teams were asked to solve a world problem. For that, the girls took on the issue of hydrodynamics and making the water cycle more human-friendly and designed an underwater vehicle to clean the ocean.
“They had to reach out to a lot of people to find out what solutions really work,” GEAR UP site coordinator Samantha Dyreng said. (GEAR UP is sponsoring the two teams.)
In the core values category, each team presented the values it had governed itself by during the season (such as how members worked together as a team) before a panel of judges. They also completed a core value activity (in this case, making their way through a maze with a ball on a towel) to show how the team works together and handles challenges.
To participate in LEGO robotics, students had to have Bs or above in their classwork. The robotics program is just one of the afterschool enrichment programs offered by USU STARS! GEAR UP at the school.
USU STARS! GEAR UP stands for Utah State University Science Technology Arithmetic Reading Students Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs.
The college readiness program funds personnel and programs at several local schools that provide students additional help and resources.
At Gunnison Valley Middle School, Dyreng, two assistants and two teachers provide tutoring and afterschool help for students who may be struggling. Dyreng, who is in her first year as site coordinator, has already seen students who have made a turnaround as a result of the help.
The program also sponsors parents’ nights and field trips to area colleges for students. A Jan. 24 parents’ night with speaker Dr. Rodney Hood had a “huge turnout,” Dyreng said, with more than 100 students and their parents in attendance.
“At the parents’ nights, along with speakers, we provide parents and students with information on how they can pay for college through scholarships, grants and other resources,” Dyreng said. “What we’re doing is changing the way people think. A lot of our students and parents don’t think college is an option for them.”
GEAR UP also helps fund a bus so students in outlying areas can participate in the afterschool tutoring and enrichment activities. The program coordinates with the lunch ladies to provide free afterschool snacks to participants through another federal program, Dyreng said.
Other Sanpete County schools that participate in the program are Ephraim Middle, North Sanpete Middle, Gunnison Valley High, Manti High and North Sanpete High School.
“The GEAR UP program has been a great experience for our rural communities and the small schools,” Dyreng said. “To participate in LEGO robotics is very expensive. We wouldn’t be able to do it and other things like college field trips without it.”