LEGOs prompt 50-year-old’s return to college

Blame it on LEGOs, Marie Bush says of her decision to return to college and earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

Bush, 50, says working as a volunteer with elementary school children led her to complete the engineering degree she began thirty years earlier. Bush, along with her daughter, Kaylee, started a LEGO robotics team to teach fifth-graders about science and engineering.

“I wanted to teach the kids more,” Bush said. “So I enrolled in ‘Introduction to Robotics’ at UCCS. Things kind of took off from there.”

On May 22, sporting a LEGO watch and a class of 2009 ring, Bush will join 1,090 spring 2009 graduates of the university. More than 800 are expected to participate in ceremonies scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. at the World Arena, adding another CU graduate to the family. Bush’s oldest daughter, Aubrey, completed a master’s degree in French at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and graduated last week.

Kaylee Bush, her partner in the first LEGO robotics team, plans to earn her degree in electrical engineering from CU Boulder in December. Bush also now directs the first LEGO Southern Colorado Regional Robotics Competition held annually at UCCS.

Though on different campuses, she and Kaylee occasionally helped each other understand complex theories or problems. And it was Kaylee who helped her mom prepare for finals. Bush recently completed her senior project, a device that monitors heat and humidity in produce shipping containers to reduce food spoilage. She proudly displays a circuit board made by her three-person team that shows the idea could work. She also credited her UCCS faculty for her success.

“I’ll never forget Professor Ciletti telling me ‘there’s good news – the math comes back,’” Bush said. “I needed that after I got 24 percent on my first calculus test.”

What’s next for the newly minted engineer? This summer, Bush will return to campus to teach “Introduction to Robotics,” the very class that launched her second college career.

She’ll bring her LEGOs with her.

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