Middle schoolers turn LEGOS into working robots

South Jersey middle schoolers will have a chance to turn childhood playthings — LEGOS — into autonomous robots and compete for prizes and prestige at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League (FLL) competition scheduled for Rowan University on Saturday, November 17.
Take a bunch of those colorful childhood staples (LEGOS), creative talent, cooperation and middle-school energy, and anything is possible, as participants will find out at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League (FLL) competition scheduled for Rowan University.

Eight teams of middle school-age students will compete in the regional FIRST LEGO League challenge on Saturday, November 17, from noon to 5 p.m. in the "pit" in the Student Center (main floor of the building, which is located in the center of campus on Rt. 322, Glassboro).

The students, ages nine to 14 and from schools, scouts and other groups, will have two minutes to put an autonomous, preprogrammed robot or robots they have constructed out of LEGOS through about a dozen challenges.

According to the organization, FLL is an international program designed to spark interest in science and technology that bases the challenges on current, real-world issues. Kids have a chance to bring together theory and practice in hands-on experiments that tackle project elements modeled on real professions.

The teams competing at Rowan include students from Marlton Middle School, Marlton; Ocean Township Recreation, Waretown; William B. Morgan Elementary School, Hamilton; and Pitman Middle School, Pitman. They received the challenges in September and their field kits to construct the robots in October.

Those who excel at the regional competition will win prizes and advance to the state competition to be held Saturday, December 8, at Mount Olive High School, Flanders, N.J. Teams will be judged on the robot design/technical, research on the project topic (power) and teamwork, in addition to the robot challenge game.

Rowan coordinators of the event are associate professors Dr. Jennifer Kay (computer science) and Dr. John Chen (mechanical engineering). Kay, Chen, other professors and professionals will judge the contest, and Rowan students will help organize the day.

The event is being held for the first time in South Jersey and is open to the public.