Kids Plus Robotics Equal Future Engineers

For most adults, original ideas are hard to come by. But ask a child how to improve transportation problems, and you'll get a laundry list of solutions. On Dec. 5, fresh ideas will be in abundance as the University of Houston hosts the 2009 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Lone Star Championship Robotics Tournament for 9-14 year-olds. Pearland High School is the host facility this year for 800 schoolchildren who qualified for participation at this championship tournament. Competing on teams, they'll pit their LEGO Mindstorm robots against those of other teams in an obstacle course built around the theme of solving transportation problems.


The FLL competitions involve two separate activities. First teams build and program their robots to accomplish the obstacle course. Second, the team researches and develops solutions to transportation problems in their home communities. The season began back in September and teams have been working feverishly to prepare for the qualifying tournaments held in November and the championship to be held Dec. 5.

In accomplishing both the robot challenge and the research project, teams get hands-on, real-world experience in the exhilarating struggle that engineers and scientists go through in creatively solving a problem. Plus, they learn problem-solving skills, creative thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship and sense of community. This championship tournament is the culmination of all their hard work.

The FIRST LEGO® League was created by FIRST and The LEGO Group in 1998. "(The league) provides a fun and engaging experience for children around the world to stretch their imaginations, creativity and problem-solving skills," said Jens Maibom, vice president of the LEGO Group. "Using a real-world issue to drive a process where children are in control provides them with a chance to take what they learn and apply it to their own lives, not only during this challenge, but to their future adventures and endeavors."

Currently in its 11th year, the FLL events and championship tournaments, like the one at UH, are held in countries all over the world. The local FLL tournament system began in 2003 with just 20 teams and has grown to 146 teams (1460 children) competing in our area and excited about science and technology, an important fact at a time when there is concern about developing more engineers, technologists, scientists and mathematicians for the future.

Lou Ramon, manager of the Automation, Robotics and Simulation Division at Jacobs Technology, puts it this way: "FLL provides opportunities for our children far beyond learning robotics. Kids who participate get to learn how to research and how to apply that knowledge to real-world challenges in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. We hope it will spark excitement for further studies in these areas. These are the kids that will one day develop new technologies that our country upon which our country will depend." Jacobs Technology, a leading NASA Johnson Space Center contractor, is one of the flagship sponsors of FIRST LEGO® League in this community.

WHAT: Lone Star FIRST LEGO® League Championship Tournament
WHEN: Dec. 5. Opening Ceremonies at 9 a.m., and the tournament begins at 9:30 a.m.
Finals will be held at 2 p.m., and awards will be issued at 4 p.m.
WHERE: Pearland High School, Searcy Ninth Grade Center
7445 South Main, Pearland, Texas, 77581
Host: University of Houston, College of Technology