FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – More than 150 students put their technical skills to the test at the First Lego League Tournament Saturday afternoon.
Sixteen teams competed in the FIRST Robotics competition at the Southeast Institute of Manufacturing and Technology at Florence-Darlington Technical College. The competition is organized by FIRST Robotics For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. intended to encourage students to take an interest in math, science and technology.
"You need to set the hook early," Jack Roach said, tournament director for the First Lego league. He says the goal of the event is to encourage students to take an interest in math and science, "in an under-handed sort of way, you might say," Roach added.
The National Math and Science Initiative finds only 29 percent of American 8th grade students perform at or above the proficient level in science. A third of eighth grade students, and barely 18 percent of 12th grade students fall in the same category.
"I've never actually made a robot before, and that is awesome," Anna Tildon beamed. "Over here, it's like the bomb! We have an awesome time!"
The theme of this year's competition is the Human Body. The teams explore the world of Biomedical Engineering to discover innovative ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body's potential.
Prior to the tournament, students complete a project that familiarizes them with the science behind the technology they will use. After completing the research portion, students use LEGO® MINDSTORMS® to build robots and program them to execute what they studied in their research projects. These two elements - the Robot Game and Project – comprise what they refer to as the yearly "Challenge" tournament.
Students compete in one of three categories: Junior Lego League, First Lego League and
Teams acquire points for every "mission" their robots complete within a match. The teams compete in pairs, contributing to the total number of points scored by the overall team.
"We want to have fun and we want to learn about science, technology engineering and math," Victoria Maldonado. She competed on the Tech Chicz team with her fellow Girl Scout members.
Judges use a specific set of rubrics to determine which teams will receive awards.
"Whether you win or lose, you still have a great time."
More than 200 Lego Leagues teams represent South Carolina in the First Lego League. Nearly 2 million students from more than 50 teams will compete in the World Festival in St. Louis, MI next year.
For more information, visit www.usfirst.org.