Eighty-two elementary and middle school robotics teams from Massachusetts—and two from Jamaica—will compete in the 15th annual FIRST LEGO League (FLL) RoboNautica competition, to be held at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). This year's theme is "Trash Trek" which will challenge teams to choose and solve a real-world trash problem. Teams will build, test, and program an autonomous robot, using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology, to either help people generate less trash or improve the way they handle trash. Throughout the day teams will present their research and innovative solutions to judges.
WPI has been hosting the FLL State Finals since 2000. Since then, thousands of teams and more than ten thousand students have competed for the top prize at WPI. This year there are 425 FLL teams in Massachusetts, making it one of the most competitive regions in the United States and Canada. In order to earn a spot at RoboNautica, the teams had to first compete in local qualifying tournaments, which took place earlier this fall. The winner of the RoboNautica competition will advance to the FLL World Festival in April, to be held in St. Louis, Missouri.
Returning to WPI again this year are two teams from Jamaica. Because the country does not host any regional FLL events, teams are given the opportunity to participate in a competition held in the United States. "We choose WPI because we wanted our Jamaican students to compete with some of the best and brightest young roboticists, and future world changers, in the USA," said Marvin Hall, creator of Lego Yuh Mind, FLL Jamaica. "I have taken teams to various locations across the United States but the recognition, acknowledgement and warmth we have received at WPI has been unparalleled."
Saturday, Dec. 19 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Robot matches: 10:00 a.m-12:00 p.m.
3:00 p.m-4:30 p.m.
Award Ceremony: 4:30 p.m-5:00 p.m.
WPI Sports and Recreation Center
Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road, Worcester, Mass.
"FIRST LEGO League gives kids the chance to learn not only about engineering and robotics, but about all different careers in STEM fields through each game's theme and project," said Colleen Shaver, assistant director of the WPI Robotics Resource Center. "The teams have to identify a problem, talk to subject-matter experts, and devise a solution. The application of critical thinking to open-ended problems, as well as learning through hands-on activities with the robot, parallel the learning environment here at WPI, which is what makes this partnership with FIRST a perfect fit for both the university and the competition program."
FIRST, which stands for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology," was created by WPI alumnus Dean Kamen. FIRST LEGO League is an international program for children, ages 9 to 14, created in a partnership between FIRST and the LEGO Company. Each August, FLL announces the annual Challenge, which engages the teams in hands-on robotics design and authentic scientific research. After eight intense weeks, the FLL season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments like RoboNautica.