Source: Sherman Publications

Meet the Mindstorm Maniacs

December 05, 2012

Blanche Sims would like you to meet their eight new champions.

The champs are from a team called the Mindstorm Maniacs. On November 17, these maniacs visited Sterling Heights to take part in their first LEGO competition and returned victorious, placing first in robot programming excellence.

The Mindstorm Maniacs consists of Michael Byrnes, Noah Boice, Branden Lapanowski, Cameron Patterson, Gabe Spencer, Kadin Wolfe, George Van Poolvoerde, and Kevin Van Poolvoerde.

Blanche Sims Principal Jennifer Goethals was pleased and proud of these young boys. “They’ve had a great first year,” she said.

The young team formed back in September under the leadership of parent coaches Jennifer and Jeff Byrnes, parents of Michael. The team helps meet the school district’s objective to supply 21st century opportunities to Lake Orion students.

The competition was held at Henry Ford II High School in Sterling Heights. The challenge set for the Blanche Sims students was two-fold. The first part was to find an innovative solution to a real-life problem; this year’s challenge was to find a way to improve the lives of senior citizens.

After interviewing senior partner and 84-year old grandmother Kathy Henschel, the team was able to design a product to help her remember things like taking medicine and similar scheduled items.

The second part of the competition called for the team to design, build, and program a robot in eight weeks using materials provided by the LEGO league.

“Kids think that LEGO League is just about building with LEGO,” says Jennifer Byrnes. “In reality that is only a small portion of what LEGO League is about. [The league] helps kids learn about science and robotics, and develop team-building and presentation skills.”

Parent-coach and GM engineer Jeff Byrnes was instrumental in helping the boys develop the program to secure the first place in Programming Excellence.

Mr. Byrnes was impressed with his team’s performance, especially for their first year in the competition. “That’s pretty incredible for a rookie team their age to place so high and to get an award,” Byrnes said. “They far exceeded anyone’s expectations.”

The experience has been a good experience for the young men. Fifth grade team member George Van Poolvoerde said “I’m definitely doing this next year.”

To learn more about the FIRST LEGO League, visit