Introducing children and young people to science and technology in a sporting atmosphere, that’s the goal of the FIRST LEGO League. Since 10 years, the LEGO League takes place in Austria and the organizers have again selected the Ars Electronica Center this year as the stage for their competition.
Picture credit: Martin Hieslmair
What’s all about?
Prof. Günther Schwarz, school inspector for computer sciences in Upper Austria, explains how the competition is built up where young people between 10 to 16 years can participate: “The final of the FIRST LEGO League is divided into four parts with different tasks. In the “Robot Game” the pupils get specific tasks for their robots built from LEGO Mindstorms RCX or NXT that have to be solved by programming. They have eight weeks to prepare themselves, on the day of the competition they have to solve the tasks with their robots within two and a half minutes as flawlessly as possible.
The second part of the competition is a research task around a specified topic – this time it will be natural disasters. They are intended to research independently, to contact experts, to develop solutions and to present their results interestingly – that can be Powerpoint but also performances. The third part is the technology evaluation. Here they recieve points for how well the robot is built, how well it is programmed, which sensors are used, how the program structure looks like and so on. And the fourth part is devoted to the team – how well have they worked together, how did they divide the tasks, how have they dealt with each other, how did they manage the tasks in time. From these four parts, the overall winner can be nominated, and everyone can compare herself od himself with other participants in a global rating system.”
Picture Credit: Argenis Apolinario
On WED November 27, 2013, starting at 9:30 AM, the Austria final will take place at the Ars Electronica Center Linz – and most of it will be accessible to the public. 180 pupils and 20 teams are expected, accompanied by a total of 40 teachers. It all began in the U.S. as the association FIRST startet the first LEGO League in 1998. In 2003 the LEGO League finally came to Austria, more precisely to Schwaz in Tyrol – it was followed by places like Linz (2004), Graz and St. Pölten. In Central Europe alone, already this year no fewer than 763 teams are taking part whose winners will then compete in the grand finale in the U.S. In Central Europe the LEGO League is organized by the nonprofit organization HANDS on TECHNOLOGY, where representatives of education, media, science and business cooperate to inspire young people in science and technology with creativity and teamwork. In Linz, the LEGO League is organized by FI Prof. Mag. Günther Schwarz and Mag. Andreas Kiener with the support of EDUGROUP and other partners. The event is financially supported by the company SAP – hence there are many team names with the three letters of the software producer.
Picture credit: Martin Hieslmair
Are robots only for boys?
The common solving of tasks can be fun, school inspector Schwarz is convinced: “This LEGO League is not just a technology competition, but it’s about the teamwork, creativity and cooperation between the pupils to conduct a research, to contact experts and to deal with a particular topic intensively. They invest a lot of time for this competition and they are excited. I believe that there are only few actions in school, where pupils voluntarily spend so much time in school.”
And are there more boys who deal with the construction of robots? Schwarz says: “No, there are pure girls’ teams also, mostly there are mixed teams, that is since the beginning of the LEGO League. But of course it still depends on the distribution of roles: Very often it happens that the girls do the part with the presentation and the boys do the technical part. The girls present and talk, the boys do the technique. This happens all too frequently. But there are teams where we have very active girls in the technical field and they are quite clever and deliver great solutions.”
Come and watch the competitions of the LEGO League at the Ars Electronica Center, on WED November 27, 2013, starting at 9:30 AM. LEGO is also part of the school program at the Museum of the Future – teachers can book specific workshops like NeXT TopRobot or Ma Boter and Ro Schine on request for their pupils. For registration and information please contact the visitor service under +43.732.7272.51 or firstname.lastname@example.org