Three young Royals are patent pending for their innovative design at the FIRST LEGO League Challenge State Championship

Three students look at camera and smile. One of them holds a trophy made of legos.

Three Hopkins students—also known as The Great Gatsbys—took first place out of 417 teams for their Innovation Project at the Minnesota Boston Scientific FIRST LEGO League Challenge State Championship on Feb. 26. Team members consist of Tanglen Elementary sixth graders Evelyn Cameron and Gavin Ferro, and North Junior High seventh grader Lucian Pier.

The Royals won first place for their Innovation Project, an award earned by the team who best utilizes diverse resources to gain a comprehensive understanding of the global innovation problem, as well as presents a creative well researched solution.

The young innovators currently have a patent pending with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for their creative design. They created a biodegradable packing product and pet litter. The product is made entirely of recycled materials

The students researched five variations of ingredients, and experimented with different shapes and sizes. After producing their prototype, they produced small batches of it and tested it as a shipping product, cat litter, and a pet bedding—it succeeded in all three.

“Packing peanuts stuck out because they were so bad for the environment,” Pier said. “We brainstormed how to make it better. I remembered that we gave shredded paper to the humane society for animal bedding, and that then shifted to the possibility of packing peanuts as cat litter and voila!”

It took a while for the young Royals to realize what it meant to have a patent-pending on their project. Cameron said it felt like just another step for Lego League so it didn’t seem like a big deal. Ferro felt the same way, but after some thought, “I realized that it was a big deal, and then it was ‘wow.’”

In addition to the win on a state level, they were one of four teams who were nominated for the Global Innovation Award, a nomination given to teams with outstanding innovation projects that allow teams the opportunity to showcase their real-world, innovative solutions on a global stage.

FIRST LEGO League Challenge is an international robotics program for students ages 9-14. The program was created to get young people excited about science and technology and teach them career and life skills. Students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realizing the value of hard work, innovation, and working as a team.