DeLong Middle School hosted their first Lego League robotics competition, as well as competed in it. The event hosted 26 teams comprising fourth through eighth grade students from around Wisconsin last Saturday.
The program that the students were participating in was called “FIRST.” FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, and its goal is to get kids involved in Science Technology Engineering and Math programs.
Blugold Beginnings hosted the event. The Blugold Beginnings program helps to educate and motivate students, highlighting the importance of post-secondary education. It also provides many services that encourage higher education, especially among low-income families.
The program’s goal is to help UW-Eau Claire students pursue careers in STEM fields. Blugold Beginnings also works to inspire and educate students. Once they have joined, students are provided with career explorations, monthly events and leadership skills.
Jodi Thesing-Ritter, UW-Eau Claire’s executive director for equity, diversity and inclusivity was eager for the event and was happy with the turnout.
“We are really pleased, and of those teams, 11 of them are teams that are Blugolds Beginnings mentors who coach the teams,” Thesing-Ritter said.
Thesing-Ritter spoke of the Blugold Beginnings programs in an article published on the UW-Eau Claire website.
“UW-Eau Claire is working diligently to decrease the opportunity gap in STEM fields,” Thesing-Ritter said.
Teams were given a problem and needed to find a solution within a given time. Each team had up to 10 members as well as two or more head coaches/mentors. The problem this year that FIRST presented to the students was to find solutions to struggles astronauts have during long space missions.
For example, some problems would include lack of water and food. The team will then find a solution to the problem and build a robot for the task.
After addressing the problem, teams need to design a robot. They will build and program it using LEGO MINDSTORMS. The program is easy to navigate and there are YouTube clips on how to learn to work on it.
Once the robot was complete and the given time was up, the teams competed head-to-head on table-top playing field.
Emma Schuff is a senior mentor for FIRST and the head coach of three Blugold Beginnings teams. She was introduced to FIRST as an infant, because her dad coached for the program. Her hope is to make the program available to every student.
“The teams played three matches,” Schuff said. “In the morning, students get judged on the project, robot, and the ‘first core values.’”
“The core values are teamwork, impact, fun, inclusion, discovery and innovation,” Schuff said. “It’s all about how the kids use those different things throughout the brainstorming process.”
Erskine can be reached at [email protected]