First Lego League with DISHER

Teaching Students Team Work, Problem-Solving, & Engineering

“On the yellow field we have team Invent-a-Tech 2.0,” states the announcer. Two student technicians fly to the playing field and nest their robot, Purple Monster, into the starting zone. “3…2…1…Lego!” Purple Monster delicately glides forward and drops off the shark tank with success. Like a pack of hungry wolves, the technicians grab their monster after it returns to base and position it for the next mission. The monster gracefully tip toes through the tight game board following specific instructions from dozens of hours of programming and optimization. With a few seconds left on the clock, the team howls with excitement when their Monster successfully completes nearly all of their preplanned missions.

First Lego League State Tournament

Team Invent-a-Tech 2.0 prepare for their practice match at FIRST LEGO League in Monroe, MI on November 19, 2016.


FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is a global competition for elementary and middle school students designed to provide hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) studies in a fun way. Over a ten-week period, teams are guided by mentors to build a robot using a LEGO MINDSTORMS® kit and program it to autonomously undertake a series of missions built around a theme. In addition to the robot game, teams are challenged to identify a real-world problem related to the theme and propose an innovative solution. Throughout the process, kids develop critical thinking, team-building, and presentation skills. This year’s theme was Animal Allies.

DISHER’s team, Invent-A-Tech 2.0, earned a total of 99 points in the robot game and the 6th highest score out of 40 teams. The name, Purple Monster, came from the distinct purple rims and the monstrous size of this year’s robot. The rim encircling the entire robot acts as an axle support structure, an alignment feature for navigation, and a frame for mounting hardware. A tall complex fork-lift style mechanism on the forward nose of the robot was designed and built for completing multiple missions. It even featured a 4-bar link door mechanism for eating and spitting mission models to and from its belly. It was a head turner at the tournament and the judges recognized the team for their hard work and innovative design by awarding them Best Mechanical Design at the tournament.

First Lego League Purple Monster Robot

The Purple Monster robot

The kids do all the work in FLL. The team met three times a week with DISHER mentors to learn about engineering, research, problem solving, and team work. This project enabled the students to build and program their robot, research problems, propose solutions concerning roadkill in Michigan, and graciously work together as professionals. A big thank you and shout out goes to DISHER engineers Chad Barnes, Mu-Hua Cheng, Kayla Curtis, and Matthew Reed for their hours of dedicated time and enthusiasm.

More information on FLL and last year’s team can be found in this blog post. If you know an elementary student in the Ann Arbor area who might be interested in joining our team, please contact our team’s Talent Engineer, Allison Ives, at

Written By: Kayla Curtis, Chad Barnes, Mu-Hua Cheng, and Matthew Reed |
“For the longest time I wanted to become a doctor to help people. As I grew older, I found that I loved building things. When I discovered biomedical engineering, I found the perfect fit!” Kayla has a BSE in Biomedical Engineering, an MSE in Biomechanical Engineering, and an International Minor for Engineers from University of Michigan. Kayla loves art and dabbles in drawing, painting, pottery, and crafts.

Chad has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Idaho and an A.S. in Automotive Technology from Brigham Young University Idaho. As a Product Development Engineer he provides a unique perspective and understanding to the design and development of products. Outside of work he spends his time enjoying his young family, serving in the community, working on home improvement projects, and when time permits engaging in outdoor recreational activities.

Mu-Hua has a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California and is currently pursing a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan. He has spent over five years in engineering consulting services including 3D modeling, computer simulation, and instrumented testing. Mu-Hua recently built his own electric guitar, a goal of his for the last 10 years, and he loves fresh sushi.

Matthew received his BS in Computer Engineering from Cedarville University in Ohio. He is using his automotive product development background as an Electronics Engineer at Disher. Matthew’s interests range from gardening and mountain biking to cooking, woodworking, coffee, and photography. When asked what motivates him to work hard, Matthew replied, “helping other people”.