First Lego League tournament features Ocean Odyssey in TTU's Memorial Gym

Hundreds of young people, including Cookeville-area students, will present robotics technology solutions to help solve problems with the world's oceans in the state’s FIRST LEGO League tournament starting at 9 a.m. on Saturday in Tennessee Tech University’s Memorial Gym.

For the tournament, middle-school students design, program and build fully autonomous robots using Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System to master missions presented by a different challenge each year. Using LEGO building elements, electric motor and sensors, teams build, program, and test their fully autonomous LEGO robot capable of completing various tabletop missions.

“The teams register in May, but they don’t find out what the challenge is until about the first week in October,” said tournament co-director and TTU engineering professor Ken Hunter. “They work furiously for eight to 10 weeks to actually build and program autonomous robots to meet the challenge.”

This year's "Ocean Odyssey" was created through collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute to help create a mission reflecting true-to-life issues involved in the study and protection of the health, biodiversity and productivity of the world's oceans. These include preventing pollution, fishing responsibly, releasing a dolphin and locating sunken treasure.

“This year we have 25 teams from across the state and one from Georgia, and we’ve attracted crowds of almost 1,000 kids, coaches and spectators in the last several years we’ve hosted the event,” said Hunter.

Cookeville-area teams participating this year are Avery Trace Middle School and a home school group.

Team members must take on specific roles and responsibilities during the challenge. Judges will grade the teams at the competition on how the robot performs on the table and on how team members work together in their preparations and project presentations.

The tournament is co-sponsored by Tennessee Tech and UT-Battelle.

The public is invited to the free event. For more information, contact Hunter at 372-3175.

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