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Float in Elba Onion Festival parade gives a 'FIRST' look at LEGO League

By Daniel Crofts

Elba resident Chantal Zambito and her family will be parading through Elba this weekend at the Elba Onion Festival. Their vehicle: a LEGO float promoting the town's FIRST LEGO League team.

FIRST ("For Inspiration and Recognition in Science & Technology") LEGO League is an international organization that partners with experts in the fields of science and technology to get kids ages 9 to 14 involved in working with robotics and engineering.

The float will showcase robots made by the kids in Elba's FIRST team, which Zambito coaches along with Evelyn Hunt. These 'bots are connected with very simple tools and can be made to move by being hooked up to laptop computers.

Zambito says her goal is not only to promote Elba's team, but also to encourage other kids to join the leagues and form their own teams -- which can be associated with towns, local organizations, etc.

Zambito has been working closely with Genesee County communities and school districts for this purpose.

"Right now I think there are only three teams in Genesee County," she said. "I'd like to see at least six to eight teams -- that way we'll have enough teams that we can build a Genesee County Region section for the leagues."

At this time, Genesee County teams need to go to Monroe County -- which has 72 teams -- in order to compete.

"I hope to change that," Zambito said.

Zambito has been in talks with technology personnel at GCC, and they are very interested in doing this in conjunction with their Tech Wars program for high schoolers.

Each year, a different challenge is issued to the teams in terms of building their robots. This year's challenge is called "Body Forward" and will have the kids exploring the world of biomedical engineering.

Zambito and her family will be handing out informational brochures as the float passes along the parade. These brochures will include contact information.

The LEGO float will be featured in Friday night's parade -- which starts around 7 p.m. at Oak Orchard Road and lasts until about 8:30. It will also be in Saturday's "Kiddie Parade," which starts at noon on Maple Avenue and lasts about a half-hour.

Photos submitted by Chantal Zambito

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