Students compete in Virtual Lego Challenge

If you pop your head into middle school science teacher Claire Fornsel’s room after school, it’s not uncommon to see students working on a virtual problem. Behind the computer sits Sarah Marrow, making the latest revision to their creation. Her classmates Stanley Syneko and Logan Caras are taking in her latest revision projected on the SMART Board in front of the students. They are working on building an engine in preparation of their upcoming Virginia Ship Repair Association's Virtual Lego challenge.

On Thursday, March 23, the students boarded a bus at 7:45 a.m. and headed to Nauticus, where they competed against 26 teams in the area in the Virginia Ship Repair Association's Virtual Lego challenge. The team was comprised of sixth graders Sarah, Logan, Caden Houghton, TiJah Chapman, Logan Pausch, Abby Verostic, Drake Rodden and Morgan Mclaughlin, as well as seventh grader Stanley.

Accompanying the students was Fornsel, parent Mr. Donald Marrow, who worked with the students after school three days and week, and Greg Skok of SERCO, who assisted the students with their project.

“Together, the team had to find something on a ship to improve and be a benefit to someone or something,” said Fornsel. “They also had to include the ship repair trades that would install or work on the improvement. They had to brain storm ideas, find out what was on a ship and the ship repair industry.”

The team decided to reduce the clutter in an engine room by consolidating piping systems.

“To do so, they had to research engine rooms, and the following careers: welder (Sarah welds), mechanic (Logan likes to dabble here), pipefitter (Caden did most of the work in this area) and engineer (TiJah and Logan worked on this, and Abby and Stanley want to be engineers one day),” said Fornsel. “Morgan and Drake Rodden rounded out the team.”    

In addition, they students divided up their research topics by interest and wrote an essay and an accompanying citation page.  The team then worked on their design changes using Lego Digital Designer software. Once that was finished, they had to put together a PowerPoint and prepare a 15-minute presentation.

“The team performed well, but did not place,” said Fornsel. They did stay and watch the finalist, as well as took notes so that they could make their improvements and come back stronger next year.

For more information about the challenge, please contact Ms. Fornsel at