The question is, what exactly is the FIRST LEGO League? And how did these Pierre TechnoKids make it to the World Championships?
The FIRST Lego League is an international competition for elementary and middle school students ages 9-14. Each team is comprised of between 3-10 members. Every year in August, the FIRST LEGO League introduces a scientific and real world challenge for teams to focus and research on. The teams create LEGO Mindstorms robots to help them complete these tasks. Teams compete in four areas, including a robot game that sees the robot complete a series of tasks in two and a half minutes without outside assistance. The other three area include core values robot design, and project. The project portion entails the students giving five minute presentations on research of the topic that FIRST LEGO League gives them.
The real world problem that teams were given this year was hydrodynamics, or in other words, the finding, transporting and use of water. According to Techno Kids coach Carolyn Ryckman, the team was inspired by the book “The Long Walk to Water” by Linda Sue Park, in which a girl in Sudan spends eight hours a day carrying water for her family. The solution that the Techno Kids developed was using drones to carry water to people in need.
The Techno Kids team, which first started in 2009, did not receive any awards at the regional competition in December other than the qualification to move on to State. Judges recommended that the team improve enough to do well. The team ended up placing second at the State competition last weekend in Sioux Falls, which helped them to qualify for the World Championships.
Qualifying for the World Championships is only half the battle. The Techno Kids need about $8,000 in donations to help the team with various expenses. According to Ryckman, community support would mean a lot to the kids.
“Donations help the kids understand that the community supports their efforts to learn skills in engineering, science, communication, teamwork, problem solving and responsibility,” Ryckman said. “FIRST LEGO League involves kids in real life and real business experiences. The current group of Techno Kids are reaping the knowledge base built by previous team members, and they are continuing to build on that knowledge base for next year’s members. Many Techno Kids team members have gone on to study engineering, computer science, medical, food nutrition and public speaking careers.”