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Robot Contest Makes Engineering Fun

FIRST LEGO League challenges middle-school students to discover the fun of engineering and science. Thousands of teams across the U.S. compete in tournaments like RoboNautica, held at WPI in March.

How do you get boys and girls excited about science and engineering? For the organizers of RoboNautica, the answer is: brick by brick. LEGO bricks, to be exact. The event, billed as a "tech-know-logical voyage," brought teams of middle schoolers from Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Pennsylvania to campus in March to pit their robots, made from LEGO bricks, sensors, motors and gears, against one another in a friendly competition.

The event, sponsored by Intel, was modeled on the events of the FIRST LEGO League, a junior version of the national FIRST robotics competition organized by Dean Kamen '73. "During a 10-week season, each LEGO League team develops its own strategy to solve the year's challenge, then builds robots based on that strategy," notes Michael Sherman, WPI's design director and organizer of the event. "They then compete in tournaments that let them see how different and clever their solutions can be."

"Programs like RoboNautica are a great step toward helping middle school students enjoy the world of engineering," says Robert W. Richardson, East Coast education program manager for the FIRST LEGO League. "It underscores the message that math and science are important subjects in which to excel."

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Last modified: Sep 02, 2004, 14:32 EDT
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