This past Saturday I was a judge for the FIRST Lego League qualifier tournament. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The Lego League, or FLL, is for children ages 9-14. Each year, FLL creates a "mission" for teams to compete in. Teams have 3 months to build and program a Lego robot based on the Lego Mindstorm kit(s). Teams register to compete in a local county qualifier tournament. At the qualifiers, the top performing teams are invited to state championships and then possibly the world championships.
This year's mission was based on food safety--how to get food from the farm to the table with minimal contamination. But it doesn't stop with just building a robot, the FLL also has a Project component in which students are given a scenario and are to research the given problem and invent a solution and present it to a team of judges. This year, students were asked to pick a food and a contamination problem found with that food and invent a way to minimize contamination.
I had the privilege of judging The Project component and learned far too much about food contamination and spoilage. Did you know that washing strawberries is especially important as they can have E.Coli, Salmonella, and Hepatitis A on them? And strawberries are listed as the 3rd favorite fruit in the United States? I sure didn't.
I have to say, these kids are incredible. Programing and designing a robot in three months is hard enough, but these kids also have to complete the project as well. Some teams had 20+ kids, but others only had three students. Can you imagine having only three students for all those tasks and challenges?
FIRST has a whole slew of games and missions for children of all ages. My favorite still has to be the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC)--120lb. robots battling it out on a field for the highest score. But, they could also be my favorite since my brother did the Robotics Competition for his four years of high school. This year's game is called Rebound Rumble and is basically robot basketball with a twist. And they only have 6 weeks to design and build a robot.
For those who want to see some videos of this year's mission and competition:
Lego League Tournament in Utah:
Robotics Competition Game for 2012:
Brother's Regional Competition in 2010 (Team 2377... extra points for hanging your robot):