Lego-based robotics take the field!

Image courtesy FIRST Robotics

FIRST Lego League

Younger minds long for a good bout of competitive robot building as well, so in 1998 FIRST created the FIRST Lego League through a partnership with the Lego Group. Specifically, kids in grades four through eight build Lego robots aimed at surmounting challenges based on real-world scientific topics ranging from nanotechnology to climate change.

Each FIRST Lego League challenge features two parts: a robot game and a project. With the help of an adult coach, teams of up to 10 children program an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field in two minutes and 30 seconds. This is the game portion of the challenge, in which both the robots and the field itself use Lego parts.

The project portion of the challenge is based more in research and innovation. Each team develops a solution to a problem they identify, such as solving a local problem with nanotechnology. From here, teams can choose to attend an official tournament.

Geared for ages 9-14, FIRST Lego League chooses its challenge topics in order to expose young minds to potential scientific career paths and encourage good sportsmanship, teamwork, hands-on technical experience and community involvement. Lego League Teams enjoy lower costs and longer build times than traditional FIRST teams and often stem from a variety of school and nonschool programs such as 4-H, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, YWCA, YMCA, religious organizations and neighborhood groups.

A mere 210 teams participated in the FIRST Lego League's inaugural year in 1998, but that number has skyrocketed over the years to 14,000-plus in more than 50 countries. That's a lot of Lego bricks!