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February 8, 2011 > Creating the building blocks for life

Creating the building blocks for life

Pre-teens work with the theme of medicine to compete with robots

Story and Photos by Rajeswari Ramanathan

Forty-eight schools from around Northern California gathered for the 2010 FIRST LEGO League Championship on January 29 at Newark Memorial High School. Sponsored by Google, Genentech, Bae Systems, and other companies, the competition encourages children to use engineering to understand medicine. Hence, the championship's theme: Body Forward.

Students, ranging in ages from nine to 14-years-old, were required to identify a body problem and create an innovative solution, through engineering. Yet, this project was not the only portion of the challenge. Competitors were asked to create a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology, which attempted to complete as many missions as possible in 2.5 minute matches on a themed playing field, for a maximum of 400 points. The all day tournament closed with an awards ceremony presentation.

Clad in colorful matching outfits, teams gathered in the main auditorium to display their robots and compete. Cheers from the audience and "photo-snapping" parents added to the excitement. Team M-Cubed from El Dorado Hills won first place of the Champion's Award; the Robot Performance Award was given to CLAWS of Saratoga, who created Enlighta glasses to help restore vision.

One of four Tri-City area teams, Chunky Monkeys of Challenger School in Newark, received the "Continuing Tradition" Judges Award, for their unique efforts, team dynamics, and creativity. They created the "Posture Perfect Chair." While there are no monetary rewards for competitors, students are given a greater preference and more assistance when applying to colleges and for scholarships.

Winning teams from around the world will be selected by lottery to go to the World Festival in St. Louis held April 27 - April 30. Simultaneously, teams from the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) will be sending their Inspire award winner, as well as the captain of the Winning Alliance, to compete with more than 100 teams from US, Canada, Mexico, Europe, and possibly China and Japan.

According to the NorCal FLL, "FIRSTLEGO League (FLL) brings theory and practice together. Working in an environment that encourages inquiry and hands-on experimentation, team members fulfill roles modeled after real world project teams." FLL is organized and coordinated in Northern California by Playing at Learning, a 501(c) (3) nonprofit. For more information regarding FLL, visit www.norcalfll.org.

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