Penn State Berks gears up for FIRST Lego League Competition

Most people have bought the sets and watched the movie, but it’s unlikely that they have ever programmed with Lego pieces to perform a series of complex tasks. Well, that’s exactly what’s going to take place during the FIRST Lego League Challenge, and Penn State Berks is jumping right in to be a part of this exciting competition.

On Aug. 30, this season's challenge, Animal Alliessm, will be released. Registration will take place throughout the month of October and there will be a single championship tournament on Jan. 21, 2017, with a snow date of Feb. 4, 2017. Each team is limited to 10 members, composed of fourth- through eighth-graders, and the event will be limited to 24 teams.

Penn State Berks faculty 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 will provide a space with a competition table for teams to practice with their robots. They will also offer 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 Kathleen M. Hauser, instructor in engineering at Penn State Berks, who is heading up the project. “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 explained that each challenge, based on a real-world scientific topic, has three parts: Robot Game, Project, and 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. Teams may then attend an official tournament, hosted by a FIRST Lego League partner.

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. 

Penn State Berks will be looking for volunteers from the local community to help judge and referee the tournament. The campus is also seeking corporate sponsors from the community to help subsidize the cost of the tournament. “As our district grows, we will be looking to partner with sponsors who are interested in supporting local teams with registration fees or the cost of purchasing a robot,” Hauser said.

Teams can register through FIRST Lego League now at http://www.firstinspires.org/robotics/fll. Additional information can be found at www.firstlegoleague.org/challenge. For additional information, contact Hauser via email at kms122@psu.edu.

Last Updated July 07, 2016