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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Missoula Team Heads To International Lego Competition

A team of middle-schoolers is proposing legislation for electronic waste in Montana.

Montana is one of 25 states that don’t currently have any legislation on e-waste, although some changes have been proposed in Montana.

A team of nine students from Missoula International School have proposed that Montana pass bills to require recycling of small electronics, like phones and computers.

According to the EPA, only about 15 to 20 percent of electronics can be recycled. One reason: it takes a lot of time and effort to take apart the electronics to recycle certain materials. An approach to encouraging more recycling is selling the product at a “cradle-to-grave” price, one that incorporates the cost of properly recycling it at the end of its life.

In Missoula, the MIS FIRST LEGO League team put their minds to the task to understand what legislation is out there for Montana and other states. That meant they also had to learn what goes into passing a bill.

The MIS team was introduced to this information when the FIRST LEGO League announced the theme for this year’s competition: trash.

The League has two parts: a research project and a robot game.

MIS team member McKenna Summers describes the game.

“So, basically what we do is we program and build an autonomized robot, and then we program it to do missions”

Competitors attach different arms - made of Legos - to one robot on wheels. The missions vary.

“It’s going to sense a line and then follow the line down to the car over there, so it’ll drop the engine in the car … it’s kinda like recycling a car.”

They have two and a half minutes to complete as many tasks as possible, and that includes the time they take to attach and detach the arms.

Of 29,000 teams worldwide, only 108 teams get to go to a world competition in Saint Louis that starts Wednesday. The MIS team had to beat 62 teams at the state level to secure a spot at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival.

The kids put together a five-minute presentation on their conclusions from their research, making it sound like a newscast.

“Good morning and welcome to this five minute edition of 7811 Today, your source for everything trash. My name is Claire, and we’re coming to you live from Trash Trek 2015.”

The two “hosts” hold fake microphones and walk down the line of kids, who all have their lines on notecards.

Parent advisor Dari Quirk has been working with the MIS team for two years. She says that a special part of the festival for the MIS team in particular is that they’re a Spanish immersion international school:

“So other teams will be able to come by and really interact with us, and we’ll be able to interact with them, and I think that’s going to be a really unique experience for the team, and unique specifically to our team when we’re there at the world festival.”

Gov. Steve Bullock declared April 27, the first day of the competition, as FIRST LEGO League Day across the state in celebration of the team.

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