Lego league of school children gears up for robotics tournament

ST. GEORGE — The First Lego League held their scrimmage tournament in the Student Activities Center at Dixie State University in St. George, Saturday.

The First league – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – saw teams of elementary and middle school students compete in a series of Lego-built robotic challenges. The final competition will be held on Dixie State’s campus Jan. 9, 2016. The students have two and a half minutes to score as many points as possible.

Elementary and middle school students compete in First Lego League scrimmage tournament, preparing for state championship in January. Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2015 | Photo by Kassi Gillette
Elementary and middle school students compete in First Lego League scrimmage tournament, preparing for state championship in January. Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2015 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

“The tournament is a celebration of what the kids have learned over the season,” Tournament Director Dolores Heaton said.

“In addition to learning how to program a robot,” she said, “they compete in other areas including an innovation project, which this year is themed around waste management.  All of these kids have had to do a project where they identify a piece of waste and how to better deal with it.”

Heidi Murray, adviser of the Lego Leaders at Riverside Elementary, said Lego League is all about “coopertition.”

“That’s a combination between cooperation –working as a team – and friendly competition between other Lego League teams.”

Murray’s team consists of 10 fifth graders, which is the maximum number of members allowed on a team. They have held weekly practices since October after forming their group in September. With the competition quickly approaching, they’ve met several times after school to prepare.

Elementary and middle school students compete in First Lego League scrimmage tournament, preparing for state championship in January. Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2015 | Photo by Kassi Gillette
Elementary and middle school students compete in First Lego League scrimmage tournament, preparing for state championship in January. Dixie State University, St. George, Utah, Dec. 12, 2015 | Photo by Austin Peck, St. George News

“We really leave it up to the kids to come up with the solutions of how to complete the tasks,” said Bryan Crandall, adviser of Hurricane Elementary’s Scientific Programmers. Crandall said his team consisted of five students, while Hurricane Elementary has more than 100 participants.

Some of the benefits of participating in this organization and event, Crandall said, include using imagination, problem solving and team work.

According to Heaton, there are 53 teams registered for this tournament, making it the largest First Lego League tournament Utah has ever seen. Eight of these teams have the opportunity to advance to the state championship at the end of January, at Utah Valley University. Then one team can qualify for national competition.

The competitors will meet with engineers and computer programmers to be judged on the design of their robot and other factors. They also are judged by other professionals on how they interacted as a team, as they learn about core values in the workplace.

“If you combine all four of the elements of this tournament,” Heaton said, “it’s a really great opportunity for these kids to learn how to work as a team in a high-pressure environment, but also a fun environment.”

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2015, all rights reserved.

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