Middle school students put LEGO-based robots to the test - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Middle school students put LEGO-based robots to the test


Middle school students from across the state tested their robotic skills this weekend at McNeese State University. The robotics competition combined LEGOs and computer technology to introduce students to real-world engineering challenges.

The LEGO-based robots completed tasks on a thematic playing surface, according to Dr. Zhuang Li, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at McNeese and coordinator of the event, which was open to the public.

Eleven middle school teams from across South Louisiana participated in the Lego competition, including local schools S.J. Welsh Middle, of Lake Charles, and LeBlanc Middle and W.W. Lewis Middle, both of Sulphur.

Students KPLC talked to said there was a lot of trial and error involved in the process.

"You have to try and figure out how you are going to do it. Try to do it that way and if it doesn't work then you have to do it again and you just have to keep on going until you get it right," said Scarlett Lachney, Avoyelles Public Charter School.

"It's a basic thing of science, math. It's all aspects of math and science - abstract and concrete. It has almost everything of math and it's just an awesome thing to do because really adds up how much you learn about everything. It's even teaching us how to be a team. There are core values and it's awesome," said Spencer Butts, LeBlanc Middle School.

The theme of this year's robotics competition was "Senior Solutions."

"Seniors face all kinds of challenges - physically, mentally, emotionally and socially," said Li. "The teams will investigate these problems and then design their own innovative solutions."

Each team completed four assignments as part of the competition, said Li. This includes a scientific research project, core value teamwork, robot design presentation and the Lego robot competition. Five awards will be given - one for each of the four assignments - and an overall Champion's Award.

Teams that met the advancement criteria in the qualifying round will go on to the Louisiana regional tournament Dec. 10 in New Orleans. Winners of the regional tournament will advance to the FLL World Festival in St. Louis, Mo., in April 2013.

"The mission of the FIRST LEGO League is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation and that foster self-confidence, communication and leadership," said Li.

Craig Richardson, adviser for W.W. Lewis Middle School, which has two teams competing, agreed.

"Academically, students benefit by learning how a robot (computer) must be programmed. They realize that they cannot take for granted that the robot will do exactly what they want it to do. Students learn cooperation, communication and compromising skills from working with the project and the robot competition," Richardson said.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a national non-profit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for science, technology, engineering and math through competitions.

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