A total of 40 persons attended an overview seminar of the North Carolina First LEGO League (FLL) at Mount Airy Middle School Thursday.
Surry County’s four middle schools and Mount Airy Middle School were represented at the meeting. Mentors from SouthData, AES, NCFI, Renfro and Northern Hospital also attended. Career and Technology Education Directors Larry Davis and Jill Reinhardt also participated.
The session marked the county officially kicking off its first season as middle school principals and team coaches attended a day-long training at Mount Airy Middle. It was conducted by NC FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Regional Director Marie Hopper. SouthData Executive Vice President Alan Connolly also was instrumental in getting the project going.
Teams will be selected next and robot building and programming will start. The Surry Economic Development Partnership has agreed to act as the “umbrella” organization for Surry FLL which allows donations to be tax deductible.
The First Lego League is an extracurricular program for students. They will form teams and compete in building a Lego robot, which also has to be programmed to perform various tasks. Participants are judged based on the robot’s design, a science project, their teamwork and presentation.
According to SouthData President John Springthorpe III, the competition will stimulate learning in a hands-on and exciting environment. Another goal of the competition is to help students discover new career possibilities and develop life-long skills.
FIRST is also a national organization and has partnered nationally with the Lego Group to organize local, regional state and national competitions annually. Teams of middle school students, fueled by their imaginations and their increasing knowledge of math, science, engineering and technology are guided by a teacher-coaches to prepare for the national “challenge” using a programmable robot built from Lego blocks.
Each Surry FLL team must solve the same nationally developed challenge within specific guidelines but how they do it is up to the team. Teams earn points in competition for succeeding at various aspects of the challenge.
Future plans are that each middle school in the Surry County Schools system and Mount Airy Schools District will have an opportunity to field two teams this fall, funded by corporate sponsors. Students compete on a local and regional level. If they qualify, they may go on to compete at the state level and then nationally.
School leaders and corporate sponsors had already been at work this summer recruiting mentors, ordering Lego kits, building regulation-size competition tables and getting the word out to students. A steering committee, made up of school administrators, corporate sponsors and statewide FIRST experts have been meeting since April.
Corporate mentors will meet with the teams on a regular basis, help with competitions, travel on field trips and invite team members to visit their businesses so participants can see the real world connections between STEM and robotics and real-world careers.
The project evolved from discussions between Surry County Schools and SouthData Inc. on how businesses and schools could partner to improve STEM initiatives. SouthData agreed to be the principal corporate sponsor and Mount Airy and Surry County School systems readily accepted the opportunity.
SouthData also has recruited Insteel Industries Inc., Advanced Electronic Services, Inc., NCFI Polyurethanes, Northern Hospital of Surry County and Renfro Corporation to join the project.
Persons interested in more information may contact the principal of their child’s school. Additional information about the NC FIRST competition can be found at www.ncfirstrobotics.org. The Surry FLL website is http://surryfll.org/.