Youngsters rise to robotic Lego challenge

More than 60 schoolchildren from across the south battled it out at the University of Portsmouth as part of a global technical challenge using LEGO® robotics kits.

Pupils from 7 schools, including Meon Junior and Fareham Academy, and a team from various after school clubs took part in the Portsmouth area heat of the FIRST® LEGO® League event on Friday 6 January.

The global scheme is designed to encourage young people to engage with real-world issues and to use their creativity and problem-solving skills to overcome them.

Organiser David Hill, Technology Outreach Coordinator at the University, said: “Today is a great chance to show how diverse, creative, and fun Engineering can be.  You can see how much all the teams are enjoying the challenges. It’s been a great way to start 2017 helping support schools and colleges in developing the next generation – the pipeline – for the future and I’m looking forward to offering more opportunities to them over the year.”

The winning team from Meon Junior School

The winning team from Meon Junior School

This year’s challenge, Animal Allies, invited participants to consider our relationship with our furry, feathered, and finned friends.

In teams of up to ten, the youngsters were asked to complete a variety of missions using familiar Lego construction blocks, along with autonomous, programmable LEGO® MINDSTORMS® robotics kits.

On tournament day, the teams competed against each other – and against the clock – to complete their missions as accurately, efficiently and quickly as possible. They were also judged on how they built and programmed their robots, and on their presentation of research projects relating to the theme.

The winners of the Portsmouth area heat were Meon Junior School, from Portsmouth, who will go on to compete at the national finals in February.

Estelle Hobbins, 10, from Meon Junior School, said: “The best part was when we were doing the Lego missions and we got a really high score. This is the first time that I have been to a university and it is very comfortable and it seems like a modern house.”

Meon Junior computing teacher Jackie Kershaw added: “The event was really good and the children got so much out of it. For some who have never been to a university before, it’s been exciting for them and it opens their eyes to what is possible for them in the future.”

The event took place at University of Portsmouth’s Portland Building, home of the Faculty of Technology and site of the Future Technology Centre, an £11m educational facility due to be completed in 2017.

This is the second year there has been a Portsmouth area FIRST® LEGO® League competition, which is run by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Mandy Workman from the IET and FIRST® LEGO® League Manager in UK and Ireland said: “We run this exciting robotics-based technology and life skills competition to inspire the next generation of engineers. The skills development is amazingly rapid as the students really engage in their own learning. They work in multi-disciplinary teams, applying problem solving and creative thinking to come up with solutions that they can be proud of.

“We are extremely grateful for the University of Portsmouth for hosting the event and to all the volunteers who gave their time to be judges.”

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