Food safety challenge proves fun, informative for Lego teams

Submitted by District 15
Updated 3/5/2012 11:41 AM

Thanks to the generous support of the Motorola Solutions Foundation, 10 teams from District 15 took part this year in the FIRST Lego League Challenge.

Carl Sandburg and Winston Campus Junior Highs each had a team this year, as did Winston Campus Elementary, Central Road, Jane Addams, Frank C. Whiteley, Hunting Ridge, Virginia Lake, Marion Jordan and Thomas Jefferson schools.


These Lego teams were funded by a $10,000 grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation. Since 2001, it has awarded 10 grants totaling $97,000 to the District Fifteen Educational Foundation, which sponsors the teams.

"We are incredibly grateful to the Motorola Solutions Foundation for its commitment to supporting this program," said Mark Utendorf, District 15 Educational Foundation chairman. "By participating with these teams and competing in these exciting competitions, students learn valuable lessons in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, and they have a great time doing it."

To compete in FIRST Lego League tournaments, teams must build robots out of LEGOS and program them to accomplish specific maneuvers and tasks related to the theme of the year's challenge. This year's theme, "Food Factor: Keeping Food Safe," challenged teams to improve the quality of food by finding innovative ways to prevent food contamination.

FIRST Lego League challenges are comprised of two parts the robot game and the research project.

For the robot game, teams build and program an autonomous robot using Lego MINDSTORMS technology to score points in two-and-a-half-minute matches on a themed playing field.

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For the project portion of the challenge, teams explore an actual problem that today's scientists and engineers are trying to solve, develop an innovative solution to that problem (either by creating something that doesn't exist or building upon something that does), and share their findings.

The team that does the best in both the robot and project portions of the competition wins the challenge, and challenges are held at the regional, state, and national levels.

Highlights from recent regional competitions included the following: The Robo-Wolves, Central Road's team, was recognized with the Judges' Choice Award at their regional competition, while Carl Sandburg's team received the Teamwork Award. The Vipers, Thomas Jefferson's team, finished fourth in the robot performance portion of their regional competition, while Winston Campus Junior High's team finished eighth. Team OGEL, Virginia Lake's team, scored big points in the project portion of its regional competition by using the Puppet Pals iPad application to create a presentation on how to prevent E. coli bacteria from infecting beef. Similarly the Food Bacteria Investigators (FBI), Frank C. Whiteley's team, impressed their judges with a project in which they shared ideas to improve food safety by confronting "Chef Cliché" on the horrendous and unhygienic ways he prepared meals in his fine French restaurant. Teams from Jane Addams and Winston Campus Elementary participated in the challenge for the first time this year, and young teams from Marion Jordan and Hunting Ridge had a great time at their regional competition while learning valuable lessons about engineering, robotics and teamwork they can apply to next year's challenge.

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