Students compete in 2nd annual LEGO League event

 

 

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Legos and robotics came together during the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition hosted by the David Crawford School of Engineering at Norwich University, as young minds worked together to create purposeful machines.

This was the second visit to the Norwich campus for the LEGO competition and is the only competition of its kind held in Vermont, according to Dr. David Feinauer, an electrical and computer engineering lecturer.
FLL is a unique program with a target demographic of middle-school-aged children with an interest in robotics and is, “innovation on all ends, it’s related to a real world challenge or problem,” Feinauer said.
“The fun factor of robotics is really a hook to get them because of the excitement. Robotics is a hook to get them thinking about science, technology, engineering and math as a means to solving real world problems,” Feinauer said.
The competition gives participants the opportunity to learn that, “they are a valid part of the community and they have a stake in fixing some community problems,” Feinauer said.
“We are dedicated to learning, emphasizing teamwork, leadership, creativity, and critical thinking,” says Norwich University’s guiding values.
The LEGO event is an example of putting those guiding values in practice.
Norwich student Nicolas Wallach, 18, a freshman mechanical engineering from Crossmoor, Fla., volunteered for the event as a way to give back. He began FLL competitions himself in seventh grade
“Aspect of teamwork is a big thing. You learn what every role of a team is, how it works, what a leader does. You can do a lot of things when you work together. Not everything is based on a single person doing something,” according to Wallach
Some of the FLL core values are: “We are a team, we learn together, we honor the spirit of friendly competition, what we discover is more important than what we win, we share our experienphoto 1ces with others, we have fun,” according to www.firstlegoleague.org.
“This was one of my first years learning programing and I found it was so much fun, but I learned how to work with other people who may not be the exactly same, like, grade, but still so much fun,” said participant Katarina Wood, 13, from Montpelier, Vt.
Competitors were given eight weeks to draft plans and to test their robots, Feinauer said. “The students both had to design and automate robots that would complete tasks, and the robots are required to complete those tasks and they have two and half minutes to test.”
Aside from the timed portion of the events, students were responsible for researching a topic of their choice which needed a solution and discovering an innovative plan, Feinauer said.
“They have to develop the solution and share it with the community and what kind of feedback they got from their community,” Feinauer said.
Service to the community is a common trait to Norwich’s own campaign theme of service as the school counts down to its bicentennial celebration in 2019.
“This year with the year of service I thought more than ever this is such a wonderful link between Norwich and the theme,” Feinauer said. “With Norwich’s foundation kind of being an experimental education and rethinking education and the theme this year being rethinking education. The way they [kids] are thinking or engaging in that, is through experience,” Feinauer said.
The FLL competition is designed with three elements, “the robot game, project, and FLL core values. The children do all the work from programing an autonomous robot to scoring points on a thematic playing surface, and creating innovative solutions to a problem,” according to www.firstlegoleague.org.
Next year’s theme is, “We’re not talking trash – we’re cleaning it up!” according to Feinauer. The idea is to discover hidden treasures in the unexpected and teach kids about preservation and waste reduction in the process.
FLL is a nonprofit organization based out of Manchester, N.H. since 1998, which designs the competition every year and sets the parameters. Teams are required to pay a registration fees of $225 for FLL for the competition and challenges, and an additional $75 the field setup kit [robot] according to www.usfirst.org.
“The fee they pay to FLL supports their organization, their ability to design the competition and their ability to ensure high quality on all their events, including support for running background checks on every volunteer,” Feinauer said.
Teams also had to pay a fee of $65 to Norwich, “which is well below what it cost to run the event,” Feinauer said. He noted the school had over 80 volunteers and they had to provide food, do setup and clean up and the T-shirts for the event.photo 2
Feinauer said that with the help of more sponsors, especially for the T-shirt costs, more opportunities could open up for different events.
“There is a huge value in creating a Norwich brand,” Feinauer said. “Having all the volunteers uniformly display it both helps with this age group safely identify who the volunteers are and provides friendly, safe place to ask for help and a unique visual to the Norwich volunteer.”

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