Science and technology will be on display when Tennessee Tech hosts the FIRST LEGO League East Tennessee Championship Tournament on Saturday.
Approximately 48 10-member teams comprised of youth ages 9-14 from Johnson City, Tullahoma, Nashville, Knoxville and Kingsport will be competing in the robotics event which is hosted annually by Tech.
“These are youngsters and many of them have not been on a college campus before. Even though they may not be thinking about their futures, bringing them on campus exposes them to what a campus looks like and what it feels like,” said Kris Craven, interim chairperson of Tech’s basic and general engineering department. “Some of them may begin to think about whether they want to go to college and focus on one of the STEM areas or maybe a different area.”
The competition, which will be held mostly in Memorial Gym, as well as Matthews-Daniels Hall and Henderson Hall, has each team building a robot entirely out of LEGO pieces that use an autonomous microcomputer connected to light, touch, position, temperature and visual sensors.
Each year the contest focuses on a different real-world topic related to the sciences, and this year’s theme is hydro dynamics. Each challenge within the competition revolves around that theme. The robotics part of the competition focuses on designing and programming LEGO robots to complete tasks. The students work out solutions to the various problems they are given and then share their knowledge, compare ideas and display their robots.
“The College of Engineering is very much committed to this program,” said Craven. “We have entered formal agreements with FIRST until we can’t do it anymore and I don’t see that happening any time soon. This is now an international competition. The numbers are mind-blowing when you see just how many of these young people are participating in the United States and across the world.”
Craven is among the more than 70 volunteers who will be helping serve as judges and referees during the event which begins at 7:30 a.m. and wraps up around 5:30 p.m. With all the participants, coaches, family members and volunteers, there will be approximately 1,000 people on campus for the event.
Awards will be handed out in robot, research project, robot design, core values and special recognition categories. Winners from this event will move on to Houston for the FIRST LEGO League Championship.
FIRST, which stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was founded by Dean Kamen and the LEGO Group’s Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen in 1998 as a way to engage children in playful and meaningful learning while helping them discover the fun in science and technology through the FIRST LEGO League experience.
For more information, go to http://wiki.ornl.gov/events/tennfll/default.aspx.