Battling robots fun for science students

at FIRST LEGO League Challege hosted by Edward F. Cross School of Engineering

By: Kristi Spurgeon

Ready. Set. LEGO! Students from five schools in Oregon and Alaska battled it out during the FIRST LEGO League Challenge hosted by the Edward F. Cross School of Engineering at Walla Walla College.

The April 10 event was a high-tech academic challenge. Lego robots, built by the students, raced across the ocean to rescue dolphins and clean up cargo spills. Students cheered as the robots successfully completed each mission. Referees watched for fouls and the crowd counted down the end of the round.

Each team’s mission was simple: to design, build, and test LEGO robots able to perform specific tasks. This year’s Challenge, “Ocean Odyssey” called for teams to research and present robotics technology solutions to sustain the health, biodiversity, and productivity of the world’s oceans.

“It’s a lot more difficult that we expected,” says Regina Cashen, assistant coach of the Technic Tyrants, from Burns, Ore. “So much work goes into just getting the robot to turn a corner.”

Cashen discovered the robotics challenge while looking for an activity for her two sons, team members Sean, 11, and Ryan, 9. “It’s been a great experience. The team has learned about public speaking, logistics and critical thinking, and a lot about teamwork,” Cashen says.

Each participant received a medallion and team awards were given out in four areas:

  • Teamwork – The Frozen Chosen, from Anchorage, Ala.
  • Creativity and Optimism – The 24’s, from Milton-Freewater, Ore.
  • Programming and Design – Hurricane, from Bend, Ore.
  • Director’s Award – Technic Tyrants, and to Iigestas, from Nome, Ala.

The Director’s Award is the most prestigious. The teams who received those awards have been invited to compete in the North American Division Challenge in Nashville, Tenn. August 6-9.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter. FIRST’s mission is to make science as technology as cool as possible for young people.  

“Students who have been involved with FIRST LEGO League are three times more likely to pursue a degree in engineering than those who have not participated in the program,” says Marlene Baerg, Challenge coordinator and director of engineering recruitment at WWC.

Cashen agrees that the program has been helpful to the Technic Tyrants. “A great part of the experience has been the visit to Walla Walla College.  We were able to take tours of the engineering labs and see their equipment. Now the students are excited about college and want to major in engineering.”

Will Cashen and the Technic Tyrants be back next year? “You bet!”

Listen to student, including Sean and Ryan Cashen from the Technic Tyrants, talk about their winning strategies and fascination with LEGOs.



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