SOURCE: First Lego League

November 14, 2005 12:10 ET

Engineering Begins in Elementary Schools With FIRST LEGO League

Over 4,400 U.S. Teams Prepare for FIRST LEGO League Engineering Competition

PORTLAND, OR -- (MARKET WIRE) -- November 14, 2005 -- Motivated by the parents' desire to make engineering attractive to their children, teams across the U.S. are joining the growing number of international groups participating in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO® League (FLL) competition.

One such team was started by Rosa Seda, an engineer in Oregon working with Leupold Stevens. Rosa wanted to show her son and his friends that engineering was more than merely schematics and formulae, but that it could be fun too. The team of four launched into a challenging and rewarding four-month journey. Each Tuesday after school, the Rock Creek team gathers to research the topic specified by the FLL and build a mobile robot to perform a predetermined set of tasks. In the process, they learn about problem solving, analytical thinking, software programming, creativity and working as a team.

During the four month, semester long session, the team is required to research a predetermined activity. This year's study is the ocean environment. Teams can choose a specific topic within that theme, anything from the environmental affects of the sunken Titanic to the short- and long-term impact caused by the Indonesian tsunami. Teams need to research what experts are doing to identify and solve issues being faced today. The final report will be presented to a panel of judges.

In conjunction with the research portion, teams are required to build a robot using the LEGO Mindstorms technology systems. The LEGO design kit contains 700 pieces including a microprocessor, IR transceiver modules, pins, gears and sensors for pressure, light and rotation. Over the course of the four months, the teams must design, build, test and refine a robot capable of completing a series of challenges determined by the FLL. During the competition in January 2006, each team will be interviewed by two panels of judges, evaluating the team's robot, the tasks and how well the group functions as a team.

"Being an engineer, I wanted to show my son that math and science could be fun," said Rosa Seda, a Hispanic R&D design engineer, Leupold Stevens. "Today, too many kids only see the math taught in text books without understanding how it can be applied creatively in their world. The FIRST LEGO League is a great way to demonstrate that learning really only begins with the text books."

There are over 4,400 registered teams in the U.S. signed up for the 2005 competition. Starting in December, sixteen will be held. Teams will present their research project and demonstrate their robot's capabilities at regional tournaments, with approximately 20 percent of being invited to the state competition.

"This is definitely a grass-roots program requiring parental involvement and local sponsorship," said Bruce Schafer, director of the Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach program. "Administrators and mentors are generally parents who attend a series of classes to learn about robotics, teaching techniques, lesson planning and the program. Our goal is to peak the interest of young boys and girls with activities they're already interested in. It's also an excellent way to give them insight into possible technical careers."

About FIRST LEGO League

The FIRST LEGO League is a result of an exciting alliance between FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) and the LEGO Company. An international program for children ages 9-14 (9-16 in Europe) that combines a hands-on, interactive robotics program with a sports-like atmosphere. Teams consist of up to 10 players with the focus on such things as team building, problem solving, creativity, and analytical thinking. Guided by adult mentors and their own imaginations, FLL students solve real-world engineering challenges, develop important life skills and learn to make positive contributions to society. Learn more about the FIRST LEGO League at http://www.firstlegoleague.org

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