LEGO and robots and kids…oh, my!

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Columbus, Ohio – 2016

Worthington-Kilbourne High School in Columbus will host the Ohio FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) State Championship from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 21st. The free event, open to the public, will feature LEGO demonstrations, robotics competitions and student teams that figured prominently in April’s World FIRST® Championship in St. Louis that featured 600 teams and 20,000 students from around the world.

FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit international organization that promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education through competitions featuring LEGO projects and robots built by students, K thru 12. While elementary students participate in FIRST® competitions that deploy LEGOS to perform tasks, the middle school and high school students compete in more advanced robotics competitions.

Saturday’s event will feature demonstrations with both LEGOS and robots from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when children and parents can see how STEM education and working with adult mentors can enhance the lives of young people. In both LEGO and robotics programs and tournaments, children learn the value of teamwork, develop leadership skills and apply the lessons they learn in school to work with leading technologies and mentors in their fields.

But the main event begins at 9 a.m. with the Ohio FIRST Robotics State Championship, featuring 24 top Ohio robotics teams competing against one another as members of 3-team Red or Blue alliances. Teams penetrate opponents’ defenses on a Medieval-theme field trying to shoot “boulders” through castle windows or scale the sides of a castle with grappling hooks for extra points. Matches last under 3 minutes during which alliances try to outwit, outmaneuver and outscore their foes with robots up to 5 feet high, weighing over 100 lbs.

FIRST® is often called “the hardest fun you’ll ever have” and the high school robotics competitions are called the “Varsity Sport for the Mind.” Students scout other teams’ capabilities and vulnerabilities, learn to cooperate with allies and in the afternoon finals, the top 8 teams will each pick two allies to join them in their final quest for the state title.

In January, the teams were first told of this year’s challenge, FIRST® Stronghold℠ – a knightly quest to storm opponents’ castles on a field about half the size of a basketball court. The high schoolers were given strict guidelines and specifications to build a robot in 6 weeks, mentored by volunteer professional engineers and scientists, while essentially building their own engineering firm they run like a business.

“The mentoring relationships with the students are key to developing bright young minds to become the science and technology innovators of tomorrow,” according to OhioFIRST Chair Kathy Gerber of Columbus. “And this year, Ohio’s mentors, students and robots stormed not only castles, but also this year’s World Championship.”

In Saint Louis at the international FIRST® Championship, Ohio teams won major awards in nearly every category. Four Ohio FIRST®  LEGO League Junior teams were recognized for their strengths in the World Festival Expo for kids aged 6-9. Team 23 Incredibots won 1st Place Champions Award in the FIRST®  LEGO League competition for kids aged 9-16 (9-14 in the US and Canada). Team 6022 To Be Determined from Aurora was on the winning alliance in the FIRST® Tech Challenge competition for kids in grades 7-12.

Dayton’s “BONDS” team was named 2016 World Robotics All Star Team and the World Championship was captured by “Cleveland’s Team” that won the First Place Champions Award on the winning FRC alliance.

Saturday’s State Championship is organized by OhioFIRST and its partner the PAST Foundation (Partnering Anthropology with Science and Technology).