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Unique LEGO Master inspires middle school students in classroom

Ian Chow-Miller teaches students at Frontier Middle School in Graham about robotics and technology by using LEGOs

GRAHAM, Wash - At Frontier Middle School in Graham you may find Ian Chow-Miller playing with six pieces of LEGOs before class.

“These six pieces here have become very famous, known as the LEGO Duck,” explains Chow-Miller. “There are a million ways to make a duck out of these six pieces, and I guarantee my LEGO Duck will not look like anyone else, and that is OK with me.”

The simple exercise is part of a bigger picture of how Chow-Miller introduces students to world of technology and robotics, by using LEGOs to build and create.

“LEGO is very big on this idea of creative play,” said Chow-Miller. “I want to see what they can do with their hands, that they have the ability to tackle different situations and come up with their own solutions.”

Chow-Miller is a LEGO Education Master Educator - only one of approximately 100 teachers in the country, and one of five in Washington state. The others in Washington are Elizabeth Vaith, Big Lake Elementary, Mount Vernon; Joey Tanaka and Julie Blystad, Bertschi School, Seattle; and Maya Donnelly, Rosalind Franklin, Pasco. They are trained by LEGO to teach students.

By using the plastic pieces, he has watched his students build robotics that can walk, climb hills, race down a drag strip, dance and even sort different colors of gumballs.

Each unit he gives his students a challenge, and the students figure out how to build a robot that fulfills the specific task.

“When they start to build their robots, if it accomplishes the task you set forth it doesn’t matter what it looks like or how you accomplished it,” said Chow-Miller. “There is no, that’s the right robot or that’s the wrong robot, if they both accomplished a task, if they both look like a duck then they got it right.”

Chow-Miller says the hands-on classroom opens a new world for many of his students.

“Typical story, this kid is awful, they don’t do anything and then they get their hands-on Lego and they start doing beautiful and creative stuff,” Chow-Miller said. “I also get a lot of students on the spectrum and this is a language that they and something they can speak, and they can create absolutely amazing things that can blow your mind.”

Along with teaching at Frontier Middle School, Ian Chow-Miller trains and creates curriculum for six middle schools in the Bethel School District. He also serves on the LEGO Education Advisory Panel.

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