Eight fifth-graders from Post Falls are taking the state Legislature by storm today, making presentations to the education committees in both houses, greeting state Supt. Tom Luna after his budget pitch, and generally livening up the Capitol Annex in their white lab coats and laboratory goggles decorated with colorful pipe-cleaner swirls. The kids are a robotics team that started as an after-school club at Ponderosa Elementary School, under the sponsorship of the North Idaho Discovery Association. A Post Falls engineering firm, LCF Enterprises, sponsors the association and the teams in an effort to enhance math and science education in North Idaho schools.
Karlicia Berry, coach for the self-named “Panic-Stricken Brainy Chickens” team, said, “It’s really growing. We grew from eight students two years ago to 500, and from one team to 53 in the last 18 months.” The robotics teams, which run from elementary to high school ages, compete in regional tournaments in events such as robot design and team problem-solving. Last year, the Chickens won top honors for their research project on how much energy was being eaten up by school computers that were left on 24/7. Their findings: The school district could save $120,000 a year by turning off its 1,600 computers nights and weekends. The kids shared their findings through a skit and a DVD.