Cool Kids: TechBrick Robotics
by Terri Pilcher
Harford County Kids
For the last three years, a local group of
homeschooled kids has participated in
international competitions with First LEGO
League. "It's so cool that we're able to use
technology with LEGOs and robotics and
programming," says Zach White, age 14.
"I love the challenge of it," says Amy
Ciavolino, age 16, who has participated for the
last four years. Her first exposure to LEGO
robots was when, "my cousin gave me a LEGO
Mindstorms kit." She saw the Maryland State
First LEGO League championship and decided to
start a monthly LEGO club at her home. That club
grew into TechBrick, and Amy's father, Marco
Ciavolino, became the founding adult.
"I'm astounded by the cool things they learn and
the amazing things they do," Marco says. "The
projects teach them everything they need to
learn to work in industry: requirements,
testing, evaluation, research, computer
programming, planning strategy, teamwork, and
Many of the kids gain in other ways. "I've
gained leadership skills," says Amy. "I'm a team
captain, but before robotics I was quiet and
shy." Her father, Marco, adds, "This program is
a huge investment in our kids."
TechBrick earned a spot at the international
competition last year when their strong problem
solving and strategy skills earned them a place
among the 10,000 who made it to the finals. It's
a true feat to earn a place with 200,000 people
around the world involved in the program.
"Atlanta is insane, because it's in a huge
conference center. It's loud and crazy," says
Amy. "We got to see everyone else's robots and
see First Robotics Competitions." These larger
robots thrill the kids because of their size and
In January, they tried again at the Maryland
state competition at UMBC to earn a spot at the
Atlanta competition. They competed against 71
teams with 1,400 kids ages 6 to 15. This year's
theme, Power Puzzle, called for teams to
understand and create solutions related to
environmental issues, energy management, and
Statistics show that kids who participate in the
LEGO and robotic programs directed by US First
are two times more likely to go into science and
technology careers. Kids won't care about that.
They'll just love that it's fun.
To learn more about TechBrick, visit
©2008 Delta Graphics, Inc.