Sixteen teams of 9 to 14 year olds are competing in a FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Tournament at Eisenhower Middle School. Students are building robots to complete specific tasks in a short period of time.
The FIRST LEGO League is a worldwide project designed to get kids to think like scientists and engineers.
Tournament coordinator Mark Anderson says, “They have a robot performance where they build a robot, program it, practice with it. They have two and a half minutes on a table to get as many points as they can.”
Preparing for the competition starts at the beginning of the school year. Students like Orion Risky meet after school a few days a week. “We built a robot. We constructed and programed a robot to maneuver the table over there and do missions to compete.”
Another aspect of a team’s presentation involves a research project with a specific theme.
“They have to create a presentation with a subject. This year’s subject was hydrodynamics, which is kind of how water effects our lives. How we get it. How we dispose of it. So they’ve been working on a research project and they perform that in front of the judges.” says Anderson.
The ability to work with robots is what attracts most students to the competition.
Student Tyler Myers says, “I thought it was kind of cool how you had to think of how certain parts would do certain kinds of actions, kind of like the color sensors would obviously detect the white color and stuff. That’s gonna help navigate the field and stuff.”
Competitors are also learning important life lessons with FIRST LEGO’s “gracious professionalism”.
“It’s a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community,” Anderson says, “Where you’re kind to everybody and you compete against someone and still cheer for them. Cheer with them, not against them, type of thing.”