Seven Unionville-Chadds Ford teams compete with area teams to solve real world problems
By Suzanne Misciagna, Staff Writer, UnionvilleTimes.com
EAST MARLBOROUGH – On Saturday, the gymnasium of Patton Middle School was filled with students participating in a different kind of sport – sports for the mind. This was all part of the First Lego League’s (FLL) Robotic Tournament , a world-wide program for 9- to 14-year-olds designed to get children excited about science and technology while teaching them valuable employment and life skills.
FLL was founded by Dean Kamen, an American entrepreneur and inventor, best known for creating the Segway, and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, owner and deputy chairman of the LEGO Group. FLL currently has over 20,000 teams in over 70 countries.
Over 26 teams from Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey participated in Saturday’s tournament with seven teams representing the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District. Teams hoped to advance to the next level of the tournament – the First State FLL Champion’s Tournament on January 26 at the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware.
Each year, teams of students, led by an adult coach, solve a challenge based on a real-world scientific topic. This year’s focus, Senior Solution, challenged teams to solve problems faced by seniors as they age such as recovering from injuries, staying fit, and dealing with memory issues. Many teams consulted with family members; others talked with seniors in assisted living or nursing home settings. The teams then presented their solutions to a panel of judges.
Another component of the competition is the programming of an autonomous robot on a themed playing field. Each team programs the robot to accomplish a variety of “missions” relating to the challenge such as lifting or moving an object. Points are accumulated for each mission that is executed correctly.
The final element of the competition is the FLL Core Values component. Teams are asked to create a poster showing how they adopted each Core Value such as teamwork, friendly competition, gracious professionalism, and most important of all – having fun.
This year, the first place Champion’s Award went to The Buckingham Brick Boys from Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Their team’s Senior Solutions Challenge was the invention of the CAFE – Cooking Appliance Fire Eliminator – a device used by seniors to automatically turn off appliances left on if a senior leaves the house.
The ROBOWhizards from Broomall secured second place for the Champion’s Award and the RoboJags from Garnet Valley placed third.
All Champion Award winners will advance to the First State FLL Champion’s Tournament at the end of January.
The first FLL team was created within the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District nine years ago by Karl Krause, whose son wanted to join an FLL team but none existed at the district level. So, Krause started a team within the district and has been involved ever since.
“FLL is a great program which inspires kids to pursue careers in science and technology,” says Krause. “One of the students from our very first FLL program is now a freshman in college and is majoring in engineering.” Krause is quick to add that the FLL program teaches kids valuable skills for any career path, whether science-related or not.
In addition to teams competing at the competition, there are also many teams of volunteers who make the tournament happen. “Everyone who volunteers with FLL, from the parents, to the coaches and judges, are enthusiastic about the program,” says Krause. “This makes the kids enthusiastic too. We are fortunate to have such good help.”