MSU Hosts Regional Robotics Competition for Elementary and Middle School Students

November 7, 2012

More than 240 elementary and middle school students will demonstrate their innovative solutions to help senior citizens continue to be independent, engaged, and connected in their communities. Teams of students will compete on Saturday, Nov. 10, during the seventh annual Spartan Challenge FIRST LEGO League – East Lansing Regional Qualifying Tournament.

The competition runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the IM Sports Circle building on the Michigan State University campus, at West Circle Drive and Kalamazoo Street.

Senior Solutions logoFIRST (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 2012 theme is Senior Solutions Challenge.

The teams will explore the topic of aging and how it may affect a person's ability to maintain his or her lifestyle—solving issues like getting around, keeping in touch, or staying fit. Teams will research obstacles and then suggest ways to improve the quality of life for the seniors affected.

"It is really exciting to see young students engaged in learning engineering principals, programming robots and working together in a group to resolve a real-world issue," said Robert Watson, K-12 robotics program coordinator in MSU's College of Engineering. "For this year's challenge, the students were asked to find a senior and discuss issues they have with life. They were to choose one of those issues to research and find a solution for. Many of the teams found a grandparent to reach out to. They are having fun and learning at the same time."

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.

"Building a better future as a Spartan Engineer starts with this exciting and innovative hands-on, problem-solving focused FLL event," said Drew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment, scholarships and K-12 outreach in MSU's College of Engineering. "We are happy to have an opportunity to mentor and sponsor these young future engineers. Competitions such as this continue to positively influence the learning and career paths in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)."

A total of 24 FIRST LEGO League teams from the state of Michigan, including 10 teams sponsored by MSU's College of Engineering, will compete. Spectators are welcome.

The top seven teams will advance to the Dec.1 state tournament at Lakeland High School in White Lake, 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.

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

More details about the Nov. 10 event

Learn more about FIRST LEGO League

More about the Senior Solutions Challenge