ST. GEORGE – The University of Utah has announced the second annual FIRST LEGO League Championship to be held in January, 2012. Middle school students from across Utah again have the chance to team up and qualify for the main tournament in Salt Lake City.
The FIRST LEGO League is an international competition created for elementary and middle school students ages 9-14. The competitions are designed to promote teamwork, unity and creative problem solving as groups of students – focused around a LEGO robotics kit – learn about programming, robotics and other aspects of science and technology.
“The Lego robotics movement is taking off in Southern Utah,” said Paul Hill, an associate professor at the Utah State University Extension in St. George.
Hill said a regional qualifying tournament was being organized by the USU 4-H Extension Office, the U of U Graduate Center, and Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School. The qualifying tournament will be held at Sunrise Ridge Intermediate on Jan. 7, 2012. The state championship will held in Salt Lack City on Jan. 28, 2012.
There are currently nine qualifying tournaments scheduled throughout the state, Hill said.
Each year the FIRST LEGO League announces a specific theme for the tournament. Last year’s theme was the Forward Body Challenge, which involved concepts of repairing injuries and maximizing the body’s full potential.
The 2011 theme is the Food Factor Challenge. This challenge is designed to educate the teams about food production and food processing safety.
There are currently seven teams organized in St. George, Hill said, and added he hopes the excitement and participation in the LEGO League grows.
“We want to expand [the LEGO League] across the entire county,” he said.
For people interested in learning more about the FIRST LEGO League, Hill encourages them to visit the Dixie Tech Team at the USU Extension, which meets every first and third Wednesday of the month from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
“Anyone can get involved,” Hill said.
Hill also mentioned the need for adult volunteers to act as coaches for teams that want the join the competition.
However, while getting a team together may be easy, getting the robotics kit needed for the tournament may not be. Hill said the kits – LEGO Mindstorm NXT team challenge kits – were $750 per kit for the first year, and $350 each following year.
Because of the high cost, Hill said the teams are encouraged to gather sponsors and hold fundraisers.
Once the kit is bought, the teams build their new robots and then get to learn how to program them to accomplish various tasks.
Despite the price tag attached, Hill said that the FIRST LEGO League competition has been well received in southern Utah so far.
Anyone interested in the FIRST LEGO League can contact Paul Hill at the USU Extension 4-H Office at (435) 634-5706. The USU Extension is located at 44 N. 100 E. St. George.
Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent