What does a Lego robot eat? Cheeseburger!

The Glebe Gladiators won this trophy for a Lego robot they created in 2004 to compete in the FIRST Lego League Challenge, a competition created by Lego and FIRST, an organization aimed at boosting student interest in engineering and technology. They finished second. Photo: Jodi Diamant

By Marisa Romano

Whoever has stepped into the multi-purpose room in the Glebe Community Centre has certainly noticed the framed sign hanging above it: colourful Lego blocks against the grey baseplate spell the words that identify the space ahead. But what about the small black tag glued on the top right corner of the sign?

It reads: With thanks to the Glebe Community Centre from the “Glebe Gladiators” Runners up in the Ontario Provincial Lego Robotic Competition ‘no Limits’ 2004. Following are the names of the seven children on that team: Andre Diamant-Boustead, Nicholas Diamant-Boustead, Adam Burns, Colin Cameron, Nicholas Eglin, Matteo Louter and Sam Roesch.

Those boys (then 11 to 14 years old) were rallied by Glenn Boustead, a parent with a plethora of engaging ideas, a knack for building blocks and connections with many neighbours. He gathered the children in his Glebe basement and surrounded them with Lego blocks. The objective was to build a robot activated by the then-revolutionary Lego Mindstorms. Its mission was to accomplish a series of tasks identified by the FIRST Lego League Challenge, a competition created by a partnership between Lego and FIRST, the youth organization aimed at boosting student interest in engineering and technology.

The sign above the multi-purpose room was created by another parent, Brian Burns, an industrial designer who guided the children in the exploration of the community centre for an ergonomic analysis of the building that was then fresh from the extensive renovation that made it fully accessible. It was the perfect site for the project section of the Challenge. The focus that year was on solutions for people with physical disabilities facing everyday challenges. After the tour, the children produced a short video for the competition.

The Glebe Gladiators, with engaged parents in tow, competed in Toronto during March break. Some of the opposing teams represented the most prestigious private schools in the area, including one sporting the GM logo. All quite intimidating, yet the Glebe Gladiators came home with a respectable overall second place and a second trophy for the robot design.

The Lego Group is listed among the businesses that reported significant gains during the pandemic. Its growth is partly due to the resurgence of adult interest in building blocks and the harder-to-build sets – a new-old game for these times of restrictions.

But what about those grown-up Glebe Gladiators – are any of them still or back into Lego? As it turns out, they are now scattered between Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal, busy with new lives, budding careers and, for some, children of their own.

Many do not remember much of that event 17 years ago. André Diamant recalls his dad’s excitement more than his own. For some, that experience marked the first step into engineering and technology. Matteo Louter and Sam Roesch joined other robotic competitions while attending Glebe Collegiate and university. Matteo Louter has just enjoyed a new Lego set received as a COVID present, and Colin Cameron still finds Lego kits under the Christmas tree.

Others traded building blocks for kitchen gadgets and ventured into the kitchen to build meals. Among them is Adam Burns, a graphic designer who, according to his business website (adamburnsdesign.com), spent the past five years in Toronto and recently moved back to Ottawa “to get back in touch with his roots.” Under the tree last Christmas, he found a very special kitchen knife handmade in Japan.

“Who was the overall winner of the 2004 challenge?” I asked Brian Burns. “That was another team like us,” he recalls, a group of unrelated children who met in the schoolyard or through their parents’ friends, all living in the same friendly neighbourhood. Great, I thought, another sign that thriving, engaging communities foster great opportunities.

Adam Burns shares his special burger recipe, for all the barbecues waiting to be fired up this spring.

Adam’s Best Cheeseburger Ever

Keep it simple is Adam’s mantra – medium ground beef, bacon, cheese and a hint of salt is all you need. Shape the meat into round balls and press them onto a hot flat-top grill or griddle. Cast iron pans also work well. This helps with texture. Over-handling the beef can make your patties turn out like hockey pucks.

Sprinkle some salt and flip when browned. Top with crispy bacon – cooked beforehand – and cover with a slice of cheese. There are alternatives for the cheese, but Kraft Singles have the best flavour and “melt factor” for cheeseburgers.

Marisa Romano is a foodie and scientist with a sense of adventure who appreciates interesting and nutritious foods that bring people together.

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