Ready, Set, Build
First LEGO league builds foundation for scientific youth in Central Texas
A progressively technological society calls for increasingly tech-minded citizens, and that’s exactly what the Central Texas chapter of First LEGO League is trying to do. First Lego League is a branch of The Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) Council, a group of Central Texas executives and educators who work together to incorporate technology into the lives of young people on a daily basis.
The non-profit—a participant in Austin’s I live here, I give here band of charities—aims to bolster the engineering background of children ages 9-14 by hosting a themed science competition that is divided in two categories: “The Project” and “The Robot Game”.
The Robot Game challenges the children to build LEGO-based robots that complete a range of challenges atop a themed playing field. In 2008, for instance, contestants were asked to use their robots—powered by LEGO’s Mindstorms NXT software—to solve different engineering obstacles faced when defending large cities from environmental disaster. So, their fully autonomous robots are lifting levees, elevating homes and raising flood barriers in protection of tiny LEGO cities. The teamwork, creativity and scientific-mindedness required to complete these goals, let alone the building of an awesome robot, are incredibly rewarding for the children. Not only do they get a chance to delve into actual scientific study, but they learn that competition can greatly benefit technological advancement.
The Project portion of the competition focuses more on the research aspect of scientific study. In 2010, the contestants tackled the budding field of bio-medical engineering. They were tasked with researching a body part that could use some improvement and developing a solution to its shortcomings. The liver, for example, could be injected with some kind of nanobot that would help shoulder some of the detoxification burden, greatly increasing the lifespan of a vital organ. This project forces the students to think about issues modern scientists are facing, implanting early on the idea that mankind is not restricted to exist inside the status quo, that with enough scientific hardship barriers are broken, technology proliferates and lives are enriched.
By introducing these real-world concepts to children at such an important age FLL hopes to increase interest in all fields of science, especially the more hands-on engineering type. As the amount of science oriented jobs increase, so should the amount of science-geared students. It’s organizations like STEM and their FLL competition that embody the I Live Here, I Give Here campaign—and for that, we are thankful.
First Lego League’s Qualifier tournament will be held Saturday, December 10th at Anderson High School.
First Lego League currently has 500 volunteers, but could always use more. More info here.