Elizabeth High School hosted a regional qualifier for FIRST Lego League on Nov. 20, drawing teams from as far as Salida to the robotics contest. Sponsored by Amazon Future Engineer, Lego Education and the Lego Foundation, 22 teams of children ages 6 to 10 competed for six spots at the state competition on Dec. 11, set for Janitell Junior High School in Fountain.
The league’s website says FIRST Lego League “introduces science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to children ages 4-16 through fun, exciting hands-on learning. Participants gain real-world problem-solving experience through a guided, global robotics program, helping today’s students and teachers build a better future together.”
The organization began in 1998 with 200 teams competing. Today, hundreds of thousands of kids compete from more than 100 countries around the world.
Colorado FIRST is a nonprofit that manages robotics competitions, according to its Facebook page.
At the Elizabeth qualifier, hundreds of kids across the 22 teams were challenged to use their Lego robots to solve problems in transportation in a global challenge called Cargo Connect. The kids were tasked with using their robots to carry out cargo delivery, move the cargo train and load cargo onto a plane, among other functions. Obstacles were set out on a large, prescribed map on top of a wooden table that teams had to maneuver their Lego robots through.
Mike Gilmore, a leader of a Centennial-based team called The Revengers, shared a bit about his group in an interview with Colorado Community Media.
“We have a total of nine kids on the team, with eight participating at the qualifier,” said Gilmore. “We started practicing in August.”
He praised the organization of the Elizabeth Qualifier and shared his team’s plans for the future.
“The kids (and coaches) had a blast on Saturday,” Gilmore said. “The FIRST organization and the Elizabeth High School hosting staff did a great job in making the event fun while showcasing the kids’ new skills.”
He added: “We’re planning to learn from this year’s qualifier and compete in future events, including next year’s FIRST campaign.”
Of the 22 teams, six moved on to the Colorado State Tournament. These include CHARMS (Fort Collins), Flaming Phoenix (Aurora Quest K-8 School), Legacy Turtles (Centennial), and Team Logic (unaffiliated). In addition, two teams were awarded first and second place, filling the final two spots for the Colorado State Tournament. Second place was awarded to Pirate Ninjas (unaffiliated) and first place went to Electric Eagles (Eagleview Elementary School, Thornton).
Event organizer and Elizabeth High School chemistry teacher, Ashley Pollard, shared her thoughts on the event in a Q&A with Colorado Community Media:
What all was involved in preparing for the event? What is your role?
I was the tournament director — I recruited volunteers as well as did the event planning and logistics for the event with the help of Dawn Lutz and Paree Gregg from Colorado FIRST.
How do you feel the event went? Was it successful?
Everything went well and it was a big success. The hope is to hold the event again next year.
Were there any outstanding moments?
I love watching the older kids who were refereeing the games help the younger kids understand how the match went and what the rules are. Mentorship is important to FIRST and to the real world. Also, how the teams work together to help each other be successful. When one team had an issue with their code, another team would step in with advice to overcome.
How do you feel being involved with FIRST Lego League helps students in preparation for college or outside of school?
FIRST Lego League is the first of three levels of robotics competitions available to students. The program develops their knowledge in a variety of areas and helps them to develop skills that will help to innovate for the future. In additional to learning coding, they learn teamwork, cooperation, strategy, and public speaking.
For more information on the Colorado branch of the FIRST Lego League, visit coloradofirst.org.
To learn about the international FIRST Lego League, visit firstlegoleague.org.