READING, Pa. — Excitement is building as the Penn State Berks community prepares for the FIRST Lego League Challenge, set to run from 8 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21, in the Penn State Berks Perkins Student Center. The snow date is Saturday, Feb. 4.
Some parts of the challenge are open to the public, including the opening ceremony at 9 a.m., the practice round at 10 a.m., the official robot rounds from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., and the closing ceremony at 4:45 p.m.
In the competition, fourth- through eighth-graders will be immersed in real-world science and technology challenges. Teams will present their own solution to a current scientific question or problem and demonstrate autonomous Lego robots that perform a series of complex tasks. Each team is limited to 10 members and the event will be limited to 24 teams.
Kathleen Hauser, instructor in engineering at Penn State Berks who is heading up the project, explained that the challenge, based on a real-world scientific topic, has three components: the Robot Game, the Project, and the Core Values. Teams of students, with at least two adult coaches, participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game) and develop a solution to a problem identified by the challenge (Project), all guided by the FIRST Lego League Core Values.
On Aug. 30, this season's challenge, Animal Allies, was released. For the Project, each team will identify a problem that happens when animals and humans interact; create an innovative solution that made the interaction better for animals, people, or both; and share their solution with others.
Through their participation, children develop valuable life skills and discover exciting career possibilities while learning that they can make a positive contribution to society.
Penn State Berks faculty, staff, and students, as well as volunteers from the local community, will help to run and judge the tournament and referee the robot competition. In future seasons, the region will have both qualifying tournaments and a final championship tournament.
Snapology, which provides interactive, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) activities for children in the Reading area, approached Penn State Berks about partnering with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) to bring a local FIRST Lego League competition to Berks County. Snapology provided a space with a competition table for teams to practice with their robots. They also offered mentoring sessions to help teams learn the aspects of programming and robotics using Lego Mindstorms.
“Penn State Berks has always been interested in supporting the local community and engages in all types of activities that demonstrate that,” said Hauser. “Penn State Berks has the opportunity to give back to our local community while generating excitement about STEAM fields at the same time. We all benefit from these type of partnerships.”
Hauser said that Penn State Berks students will learn the value of sharing their time at an event that engages children in the community in a STEAM activity. “We are engaging our youth in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math fields and having a whole lot of fun doing it,” said Hauser.