Crystal Lake girls earn international science competition award

CRYSTAL LAKE – Crystal Lake’s smartest Fruit Salad now has a bit of Spanish flair.

Fruit Salad, a self-made science club of six Lundahl Middle School eighth-grade graduates, recently returned from an international engineering competition in Spain where it took third-place in programming out of 96 teams from 42 countries.

The six girls were one of only five teams from the United States invited to compete at the FIRST LEGO League Open European Championship in Pamplona, Spain. FIRST LEGO League is an international program for youths ages 8 to 14 that aims to increase interest in science, technology, math and engineering and teach employment and life skills.

“Some of us had never been out of the country before that,” said team member Julia Freund. “It was difficult trying to figure out directions or food and things like that.”

The girls were in Spain from Memorial Day through June 1 for the three-day competition that challenged participants to build a robot out of nothing but LEGOs and program it to navigate a course and move objects all without the use of a controller.

All directions are programmed into the robot before sending it off to see how efficiently it navigates the course and obstacles.

While the science and competition was fun, team members said it was the social experience they will remember most. In addition to seeing the architecture and culture of Spain, the group also made friends with peers from around the world.

“Some teams brought in food from their home countries, which was really cool,” said Caroline Rausch, noting Fruit Salad handed out its trademark Starbursts as well. “It was really fun to talk to them.”

Raush and Freund were joined by teammates Theresa Grivas, Sidney Dickinson, Kristen Anderson and Audrey Godsell on the trip.

Kathy Godsell, who went with the group on the trip, said it was a great way for the group that has been together for two years to end its time in the FIRST LEGO League. She said the girls met for hours multiple times a week in preparation.

Kathy Godsell said Lundahl Middle School was completely supportive of the girls even though it was not an official school club and they had to miss some days.

“It was a pretty big accomplishment,” she said of the trip. “[The school] was very excited for them.”

As all of the girls head to high school, they are no longer eligible to compete in the FIRST LEGO League, but all members said they planned to stick together and compete at the next level, which is the FIRST Tech Challenge.

For more information on Fruit Salad, visit www.clrobotics.org/fll/fruitsalad/index.html.

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