Beaver Dam robotics team headed to Japan for competition

BEAVER DAM, Wis. — The Beaver Dam Middle School robotics team will be headed to Japan for an international competition this May.

The Megaminds are one of seven American teams that qualified for the First Lego League Open International competition that will take place in Nagoya city.

The middle school has participated in state competitions in the past, but this is the first global competition for the Beaver Dam school.

“I didn’t ever think we were going to go to Japan, which is pretty crazy to think about for me because I never thought we would make it this far,” said 7th grader Owen Nill.

The team of nine students first began working together in August of last year making it through regional, sectional and state competitions, earning the Strategy and Innovation award at two of those competitions.

“It’s very rewarding for us as coaches but also I mean it’s great to see the enthusiasm of the kids when you know they made it. They did well,” said team coach Brian Lerwick.

Lerwick,whose son is on the team, is a mechanical engineer and has been coaching in the FLL competitions for six years.

He said coaches are encouraged to be hands off when it comes to building, designing, and programming the robots.

“That’s a challenging part but it’s also kind of rewarding when you can ask them a question and you can see the light bulb go on and you see the eyes light up and they got it,” said Lerwick.

The competition doesn’t just judge participants on their robotics skills but also tasks them with finding and solving a community problem.

The Megaminds chose to tackle one of Beaver Dam’s vacant buildings by suggesting it be turned into a family and teen entertainment center.

With the help of the city’s mayor, this caught the attention of a local investor with a similar idea.

“We didn’t think that it would become a reality because most projects that are presented in FLL competitions, they don’t become a reality it’s just a hypothetical situation, but this year we’re really excited because we get to give back to our community,” said 8th grader Megan Sutton.

Team coaches have started a GoFundMe in the hopes of taking every team member and an adult chaperone to Nagoya.

They said this competition is important because it sets the stage for STEM careers by developing students’ research, interpersonal, and problem solving skills.