If microprocessors were like eight cylinder motors, you could hear Mount Airy and Surry County’s First Lego League teams revving up their robots this week.
Fourteen Lego robots programmed by 140 students from Mount Airy City Schools and Surry County Schools will compete in the area’s first county robotics competition set for Dec. 8 at Meadowview Middle School in Mount Airy.
“When I think about the skills that students will need to be successful, I think about the ability to research, collaborate and tackle unique problems. The First Lego League provides students with a chance to enhance all of those skills in new and exciting ways. It is so encouraging to see our young people working so hard and having so much fun at the same time,” said Mount Airy City Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little.
According to information supplied by SouthData, the 14 teams will do oral presentations in the morning and the competition will be open to the public at 1 p.m. for the opening ceremonies of the tournament. The robotic competition will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. followed by an award ceremony. Six trophies will be awarded. The categories receiving trophies are overall champion, core values champion, projects champion, robot design champion, robot run high score and the judges’ award.
“I am extremely grateful for the community support that has made all of this possible and am looking forward to seeing these competitions in the years to come. This has been such a great experience because of the commitment and dedication of the coaches and mentors. I know they feel like they are building the bicycle while they are trying to ride it, but I am so proud of how they have come together to create this unbelievable experience for students of Mount Airy.”
The Surry FIRST Lego League is a inaugural partnership between the school systems and five local companies to form the area’s first Lego robotic program. The Surry first Lego League targets middle school students in an initiative to promote science, technology, engineering or math in what is called STEM education.
Corporate sponsors for the league are SouthData Inc.; Renfor Corporation; NCFI Polyurethanes; Insteel Industries Inc.: Northern Hospital of Surry County; and advanced Electronic Services Inc. The effort is also supported by the Surry county Economic Development Partnership.
FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The organization was founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen as a way to inspire young people’s interest in science and technology.
“This program is an example of the kind of public-private partnership that can help shape our future workforce to better meet the needs of our business community,” said Surry Economic Development partnership President Todd Tucker.
According to information supplied by SouthData, students build and program Lego robots to complete tasks in sanctioned competitions guided by their imaginations and adult coaches and mentors. The tournament is not only about robot design and programming. Teams must complete a research project and be able to demonstrate core values including teamwork, leadership and initiative.
“The FIRST Lego League is an extracurricular activity for students where they learn teamwork and technology skills. The robot is the flashy part that attracts the most attention but its performance is only a fourth of the overall score,” explained SouthData President John Springthorpe III. “The participants are judged and scored in four areas, the research project, robot design, core values and robot performance. The competition stimulates learning in a hands-on and exciting environment, which helps the students discover new career possibilities and develop skills that will last a lifetime.”
Surry First Lego League teams have been working on their projects since the beginning of the school year and scrimmages were held to prepare them for upcoming competition. Volunteers from the sponsor companies donated time t be mentors. The theme for this year’s problem is “Senior Solutions.” Teams had to partner with a senior citizen to identify and solve a problem unique to seniors.
“The future workforce in America must meet the global challenge in a new and dynamic fashion. First Lego Legue provides the opportunity for students to develop skills that will be absolutely necessary to compete in our global economy,” said Surry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Ashley Hinson. “I feel so fortunate to partner with SouthData and the other corporate sponsors and cannot emphasize enough my appreciation to John Springthorpe and Alan Connolly of SouthData for jumping on board, with both feet I might add.”
Hinson also said Lego league allows students to have an enjoyable learning experience that will lead to interest in areas of study vital to our future economy, science, technology, engineering and math.
“I hope the community will join us Saturday for the tournament,” said Hinson. “You will have a blast.”