BEEST Mode Project

BEEST Mode Project Shows Promising Youth Engagement with City Government

Six local junior high students turned a robotics competition project into a new Lakeville city ordinance to allow backyard beehives. The team, aptly named BEEST Mode, spent six months collaborating with – and often educating – the Planning Commission and City Council before their initial proposal was passed. 

The robotics competition, First Lego League in Minnesota, is part of an international robotics program that includes more than 200,000 kids in 63 countries. Teams work together to build and program an autonomous robot and create a unique solution to a problem associated with the yearly theme. The 2016-2017 theme was Animal Allies; teams had to implement a plan to improve human/animal interaction. 

Mason Ertel, a member of the team, already had a connection to bees when the project was announced. “We were talking about what animal we wanted to do,” Ertel said. “I brought up my grandpa owning a bee farm. Everyone said, ‘oh that's cool’ and we decided to do bees.”

Settled on bees as the project subject, the team set out to find out how they could improve some element of human and bee interaction. Although the issues of habitat loss and pesticide use piqued their interest, once the team learned Lakeville didn’t allow beehives on residential areas they knew the aim of their project. 

Planning Director Daryl Morey worked with the students starting in December 2016. Something that stuck out to Morey was the level of expertise and dedication shown by the group of sixth graders. “The BEEST Mode team attended a bunch of work sessions and meetings over 6 months to present their ideas and give their input and expertise.”

“They all answered all questions beyond their years,” Morey continued. “The Planning Commission all commented on how poised they were. It was a great experience all around for the kids and staff alike.” 

For the BEEST Mode kids, it wasn’t always easy to stay poised throughout the project. One of their big takeaways from the process: politics and policies don’t change quickly. 

“The ordinance process takes a fair amount of time,” said Mayor Doug Anderson. “The kids may have lost a little patience, but they didn't show that to us.”

“We learned that politics is really slow, but it was really fun,” said Steve Launsbach, another member of BEEST Mode. “It was worth it in the end.”