FIRST—“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology—motivates lego-loving kids to solve real-world problems. Holston IT is proud to support this program which develops critical thinking skills in the kids of our community. This year we sponsored two teams.

Congratulations to the Fire Ants Team, which won first place Core Values at the Abingdon competition, and to the Middle-earth Mechanics team, which won first place Robot Design in Johnson City and will compete at Tennessee Tech in February.

The Middle Earth Mechanics team

(Left to Right)

Back row: Tom, Alex Nick

Front row: Sam, Abram

Designing an effective robot, researching a real-world problem, and displaying Core Values are the three aspects of this competition.

This year, the theme was “Trash Trek.” One of the teams we sponsored researched the problem of plastic bags: how to motivate people to reuse them and how to manage the fly-away nuisance they pose at landfills. Our other team proposed a “Trash Fun House” as a way to educate people about recycling. Each team built and programmed a lego-robot to compete trash-themed missions on the table pictured above, such as turning a dial on that tall red obstacle to make it sort different types of legos into their appropriate recycling bins.

There are three components to the FIRST Lego League competition. Each team must:

  1. Build a robot, and program it to accomplish missions on the Competition Table.
  2. Research a real-life challenge and create a solution to it (the “Project”).
  3. Learn about the Core Values and practice them, as a team and as individuals.

ROBOT DESIGN

In August, the team members gathered around this year’s competition table for the first time. Their task: study the layout of the table and the accompanying challenge missions. Determining which missions they wanted their robot to accomplish led them to design the robot with certain features.

Sam, from Middle Earth Mechanics, and T. Rex, from the team’s fan club, stand over their recently assembled table.

Pictured here are Nick, Sam, Abram, Tom, Alex, and Coach Jason. They are watching their lego robot complete the missions they programmed it to do.

Here is a 2 minute video of one of the team's robot competition rounds at the ETSU tournament.

PROJECT

FIRST Lego League is about more than building and programming Lego Robots. Each year, teams also must apply their researching and problem solving skills onto a real-world challenge.

This year’s challenge was:

  1. Study how trash is created and what happens to it when people “throw it away.”
  2. Create an innovative solution to improve the process
  3. Share the solution

Here, the Middle Earth Mechanics team builds their project poster.

Here, the boys practice their 5 minute project presentation and answer questions about their idea:

CORE VALUES

Inspiration

  • Discovery — The team has a balanced emphasis on all three aspects of the competition (Robot, Project, and Core Values). It’s not just about winning awards.
  • Team Spirit — The team engages others in their enthusiasm and fun; they have a clear identity.
  • Integration — Team members apply FLL values and skills in their daily life.

Teamwork

  • Effectiveness — Clear processes enable the team to accomplish well-defined goals.
  • Efficiency — Time management and role definition allow the team to accomplish its goals.
  • Kids Do the Work — The kids work independently with minimal coach guidance.

Gracious Professionalism

  • Inclusion — The team displays consideration and appreciation for the ideas and skills of all team members, with balanced involvement.
  • Respect — Team members act and speak with integrity so that others feel valued—especially when solving problems or resolving conflicts.
  • Coopertition — The team competes in the spirit of friendly competition and cooperates with others.

To assess whether the boys had internalized these values, a judging panel gave them a short, timed challenge and watched them solve it as a team. Then the judges interviewed the team. This year’s challenge: they were given a stack of office supplies and told to build a tall tower with them.

Additionally, there were “hidden judges” throughout the day who were walking around observing the teams and evaluating their adherence to these principles.

Addie, at the Johnson City competition, cheering for her older brothers and her favorite team

Want more information?

click a link below to read about what previous teams have accomplished or how to start a new team.