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Donor Spotlight

Regional Herbon Andover and Marlborough Middle School

Penny Wars Benefits Robotics Program

Penney WarsHurricane Ike disrupted the daily lives of students in Galveston this year. Many children lost their schools, their homes, and for some, all the hard work they had put into preparing for the Lone Star First Lego League Robotics Championship Tournament. But with the generous help of some students in Connecticut, 6 lucky teams were able to make it to the January 10th competition.

The First Lego League program, part of FIRST Robotics, is a way for young people to experience the excitement of technical creativity and gain insights in the possibility of a technical career. FLL Partners around the world responded when Karen Cohen Director of the UH CORE program and FLL affiliate, let them know of the post-hurricane devastation and how it affected FLL teams. Besides well wishes, monetary help soon started to pour in from every corner of the country.

A particularly special FLL group went above and beyond to help the Galveston teams. The Regional Herbon Andover and Marlborough (RHAM) Middle School in Herbon, Connecticut, created a fundraising activity called the Penny Wars. This effort raised over $2000 for the affected teams.

The Penny Wars project was made possible with the help of Becky Sinosky, a TE teacher and a First Lego League partner at this school. In the Penny Wars, teams would pit against each other usually by grade, room or like teams (a middle school division). They pit them against each other for one week. During the day and lunch waves there are buckets with the teams color on it. Each time someone put a penny or paper money (including checks) the team earned a point. If you wish to penalize another team you put silver money into the other teams bucket. This silver money takes points away.

"The kids loved the fundraiser and felt connected to those they helped." This year our First Lego League was looking at their competition and Penny Warshow it was about climate and making connections", said Sinosky." They decided to help other students who would not get to do what they were doing and that was work towards a competition later on."

The 6 teams and 90 other children whose teams were cancelled were given the VIP treatment at the tournament. Giant pizzas, backstage access, and commemorative shirts touting the slogan," I made a personal Climate Connection with Hurricane Ike in 2008" made the kids feel like they were a part of the festivities. Being that the theme of the season was Climate Connection the irony was not lost to anyone.

Cohen said, "We wanted people to feel connected. It takes just a little effort to make a big difference in someone's life. We hope our efforts will keep the kids interested in robotics and technology next year and for years to come and let them know that people everywhere care about them."

The new FLL season, which begins in May, revolves around a technology and transportation theme. For more information on the CORE program please visit,

- Martha Chavez