Watch FIRST Lego League Tournament in Memorial Gym on Saturday

Imagine a world where 9- to 14-year-olds are thinking about manipulating individual atoms, creating clothes that never get dirty, riding an elevator to outer space, and finding cures for disease.

About 370 Middle Tennessee children will be thinking about all those areas of nanotechnology this Saturday in Tennessee Tech University's Memorial Gym at the annual FIRST Lego League tournament. More than 800 participants, parents, coaches, volunteers and spectators are expected at the event.

"These teams have been working about eight weeks to research, design and program their robots for this competition," said tournament co-director and TTU engineering professor Ken Hunter. "Each team will be trying to earn a spot in the regional competition, but what they will all gain is experience with teamwork, troubleshooting and problem-solving."

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.

Local teams participating are the Awesome Atoms and The Element Posse from Jackson County Middle School and Tiny Tech, an independent team from Cookeville.

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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