Andrew Hamilton School helps students build opportunities with LEGO competition


Local students were on a roll during Wednesday’s LEGO competition in West Philly.

Andrew Hamilton School teamed up with the School District of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Robotics Coalition to host its first-ever FIRST LEGO League competition in an effort to improve STEM education resources for students.

The competition, which has been hosted in other school district high school events, features a hands-on STEM competition designed to inspire young children through fun challenges and competitions.


Central High School robotics students helped staff the event and provided mentorship.

“STEM is so critical for the learning of students going into the 21st century. Some of the jobs they will have don’t even exist yet. So they need the skills that are there, whether they are able to code or problem solve, but more important is working together as a team,” said Mark Paikoff, a digital literacy teacher and science technology coordinator at Andrew Hamilton.

The competition comes just a week before the nation’s Computer Science Education Week, which serves as an annual call to action to inspire k-12 students to learn computer science and advocate for equity.


Andrew Hamilton School Principal Torrence Rothmiller says the competition builds on the school’s overall vision to provide every student with exposure and experience to robotics and computer science through cross-curricular, project-based learning.

“I’m excited about it. Mark (Paikoff) brought it to me at the beginning of the year because I charged him with taking over our computer program and bringing it into 21st-century learning,” said Rothmiller.

The West Philadelphia middle school has become the only K-8 school in the district to infuse robotics throughout its curriculum in every grade level.

While it was viewed as a difficult task for the younger grade classes, the middle school incorporated the LEGO competition into their curriculum for all grade levels to expose students to robotics, coding, teamwork, and digital citizenship.


This new curriculum is a part of a three-tier level learning approach centered around STEM that would rotate different grade levels semesterly.

  • ‘Discover’ for younger grades
  • ‘Explore’ for grades 3 and 4
  • ‘Challenge’ for grades 6 and 7 (who would compete in citywide competition events)

Assistant principal Devon Madison says the curriculum has been engaging and staff members say the morale at the school overall has risen significantly, with students volunteering more consistently to participate in after-school STEM activities.

“That excitement drives our instruction,” adds Rothmiller. “Our mission and vision remain clear and plain. We want to be a place where students want to come, and parents feel safe sending them.”

The Philadelphia Robotics Coalition, which supports robotics programs that serve Philadelphia students through various programming, will host The Philadelphia FIRST Robotics Tournament Saturday, Dec. 10, at Central High School.

A total of 75 Philadelphia teams will compete, spanning, from grades 2-12.

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