Sterling Heights

Sterling Heights' students build on robotics reputation

For students in Sterling Heights, building with Lego blocks has become much more than a childhood pastime. Approximately 70 elementary and junior high school teams competed in the annual UCS ThunderQuest on Saturday at Henry Ford II High School, putting their robotics skills to work.

Mirabelle Greig, of the Tuxedo Purr-itos Meowt Into Space from Switzer Elementary, takes part in last year's UCS ThunderQuest.The event promoted science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education through a series of challenges in FIRST leagues (For Inspiration and Recognition of Sciences and Technology). Teams competed most of the day at the free event, with fourteen of the teams from Utica Community Schools (UCS).

In addition to the FIRST Lego League, this year's ThunderQuest was expanded to host a junior league for students age six to 10 and a FIRST Tech Challenge, a transition program between FIRST Lego and the high school FIRST robotics challenge. Students from each of the district’s high school FIRST teams–the UCS ThunderChickens and Crevolution–worked together to help stage the event.

“The UCS ThunderQuest again demonstrates why UCS is a hotbed for robotics education,” says UCS Superintendent Christine Johns.

“ThunderQuest involves our entire community in developing skills in our students that will be critical to their future, including coding, teamwork and problem solving.”

Guided by adult coaches, FIRST Lego League Jr students built models and created posters to present what they learned. The program focuses on building interest in STEM education through a real-world challenge–to be solved by research, critical thinking, and imagination.

FIRST Lego Robotics saw students aged nine to 14 build Lego-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface while FIRST Tech Challenge teams were tasked with designing and building robots to compete in a head-to-head challenge.
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Kate Roff is an award-winning freelance writer and journalism educator, currently based out of Detroit. She is the managing editor of Metromode and Model D. Contact her at