Students use robots during "Mission Mars" at LEGO League tournament

Hundreds of young people, including Cookeville-area students, will be operating dozens of robots on missions to colonize the planet Mars this Saturday at the state’s FIRST LEGO League tournament starting at 9 a.m. 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.

“This year we have about 40 teams from across the state competing, and we’ve attracted crowds of more than 1,000 in the last several years we’ve hosted the event,” said event coordinator Ken Hunter.

Cookeville-area teams participating this year include Avery Trace Middle School and Prescott Middle School.

Teams are given eight weeks to construct and test a robot to complete its mission during the December Cookeville competition. This year’s challenge is based on the robots' ability to complete tasks including removing dust from a solar panel, building habitation modules, freeing a rover stuck on a sand dune and moving ice cores across a rugged terrain.

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.
The tournament is co-sponsored by Tennessee Tech, the American Museum
of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge and UT-Battelle.

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