Lighting up the Season

The Mayor’s tree lighting gets some help from Team Driven


Faith Roach

Driving through downtown Lee’s Summit, passersby will be met with the flashes of an, especially impressive Christmas display. As they sit and watch the lights flicker through several colorful arrangements, viewers may be surprised to discover that the city had some help from Lee’s Summit High School’s own Team Driven this year.

“Team Driven’s coach, Wyatt Durgan, has an elaborate light display at his home every Christmas. After Wyatt and Crystal Durgan won the Lee’s Summit CItizens of the year, the city of Lee’s Summit approached Team Driven to help them set up their light display. The city provided us with all the needed equipment and we went from there,” junior Piper Stropes said.

Normally Team Driven builds and pilots robots that compete in robotics competitions, but this year they are lending the city their skills. 

“The Mayor had been at many of our other events and knew that the team was more than capable to pull off something of this size in such a short time,” coach Wyatt Durgan said. “The team is pretty much prepared for anything thrown our way.  Our normal build season is 6 weeks long and the timelines were about the same for this project.  Likewise, many of our students know many things about programming, building, designing, and LED lighting as we do all of these things on the robot each year.”

Although the concept was inspired by the Durgans’ light display, students had a chance to help with the design.

“Our mentors challenged each person to come up with a 5-minute lights show and they would put them all together.  Several team members stepped up to the challenge and the result was the 20 minute light display,” Stropes said.

One such student that stepped up to the challenge was junior Lily Aldenderfer.

“I set up a design where the different elements of the display sparkle and change designs at different times. That took some quick and easy math work,” Aldenderfer said. “It’s really rewarding to see something beautiful that you were able to take part in.”

Team Driven is no stranger to working together towards the bigger picture.

“This project was similar to projects we’ve worked on before because we took the same problem-solving approach we usually do: divide to conquer and regroup to discuss regularly. Groups of team members conquered sections of the project and after every workday, we reconvened to discuss the progress that had been made,” Aldenderfer said.

There were some new skills students had to pick up along the way.

“This was a new experience for all the students, so we learned a lot through the process of doing the project. Some of the main skills and knowledge that went into the task was soldering the wires together and making sure that positive and negative wires were switched,” junior Zoey Sears said.

For some students, learning on the job was all part of the fun.

“Learning on the fly was kinda fun. I liked just being thrown into the project,” sophomore Madison Bellamy said.

However, Bellamy has had previous experience with this type of work.


“When I was younger my dad and I would find small soldering projects that would make lights turn on when you pushed a button or a sound play. Some examples are we made an LED candle to put in a jack-o-lantern that we still use every year. I also remember making a dice type thing, where you pushed a button and a random number of LEDs would light up. The most recent project we did was we put lights similar to those at City Hall on our Christmas tree. We didn’t do the programming part, but we did add a small computer to each strand so we could control them,” said Bellamy

Team Driven was happy for the opportunity to use their expertise to spread some Christmas cheer.

“This project was such a unique and safe opportunity to give back to our community and to help celebrate the holiday while still practicing social distancing,” said Stropes. “Robotics is about putting things together in a way to make them work successfully and accomplish the assigned task. I am so grateful that the town of Lee’s Summit gave my robotics team this amazing opportunity!”

In a year where it has been difficult to participate in teams and activities like one normally would, students can be encouraged by instances like this one. Thanks to the city and their own innovative thinking, Team Driven continues to put their knowledge to work.