Food Safety is Focus of FIRST LEGO League Competition

November 11, 2011

More than 240 elementary and middle school students will demonstrate their innovative solutions for preventing and combatting food contamination as they compete on Saturday, Nov. 12, during the seventh annual Spartan Challenge FIRST LEGO League - East Lansing Regional Qualifying Tournament.

The competition runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the IM Sports Circle building on the Michigan State University campus, at West Circle Drive and Kalamazoo Street.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a multinational, nonprofit organization; the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is the result of a partnership between FIRST and the LEGO Group.

Each year, FLL reveals a challenge that relates to a significant real-world issue. The 2011 theme is Food Factor Challenge - Keeping Food Safe. Participants will explore the topic of food safety and examine the possible points of contamination that our food encounters - from exposure to insects and creatures, to unsterile processing and transportation, to unsanitary preparation and storage - then find ways to prevent or combat these contaminants.

"The College of Engineering is pleased to host 24 hard-working, dedicated elementary and middle school teams this year, marking the largest FLL tournament at MSU," said Drew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment, scholarship and K-12 outreach in MSU's College of Engineering. "I anticipate that the event will be highly spirited, loud, exciting and a fun day for our future Spartan engineers!"

Students have about 10 weeks to prepare for the competition. They work in teams of up to 10 students and are guided by at least one adult coach. Using NXT LEGO MINDSTORM Robotics Invention System kits, they build and program an autonomous robot capable of completing a pre-designed mission within 2 minutes and 30 seconds; analyze, research and develop a solution for a specific, assigned problem; and create a clever presentation about their solution to perform in front of a panel of judges.

During the competition, the teams earn points in four categories: project, robot technical interview, core values and robot game.

"The students come up with some amazing ideas for resolving the problems and completing the robot missions they are presented with," said Robert Watson, K-12 robotics program coordinator in the College of Engineering. "During the 10 weeks the students spend preparing for this competition, their growth in technical knowledge and their ability to work together to research and put together a creative presentation is inspiring."

A total of 24 FIRST LEGO League teams from the state of Michigan, including 11 teams sponsored by MSU's College of Engineering, will compete. Spectators are welcome.

The College of Engineering Recruitment, Scholarships and K-12 Office will sponsor lunch for everyone in attendance.

The top seven teams will advance to the state tournament on Dec. 10 in Flint, Mich.

MSU's FIRST LEGO League teams are supported by a grant from Shell Oil Company through the Shell SITES (Students Interested in Technology, Engineering and Science) Program and the MSU Office of Outreach and Engagement.

More details about the Nov. 12 event

Learn more about FIRST LEGO League

Read about the 2011 Food Factor Challenge