FIRST has a wide variety of programs for all ages. Among the youngest is the Junior Lego League (Jr. FLL) and FIRST Lego League (FLL). Jr. FLL is open to students in Kindergarten through third grade and FLL is open to students ages nine through fourteen.
Each September, FIRST releases the new challenge, which has two parts: the Robot Game and The Project. In the Game, teams build an autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS technology. It must function efficiently through the obstacle field and score as many points as possible in two and a half minute matches. The Project consists of a problem that today’s scientists and engineers are trying to solve. Teams along with their mentors must do extensive research and explain their findings to a panel of judges.
Each team’s region holds qualifying tournaments in which teams have the opportunity to advance to the World Festival Championship. Eighty-five teams qualify for the Festival – the “World Championship” of FLL. At this tournament, our future innovators have the opportunity to meet each other and learn about new cultures while exchanging ideas.
The ThunderChickens have been helping teams from around Macomb County, Michigan by holding a tournament for them each November at Utica Henry Ford High School. This tournament, ThunderQuest, is almost entirely student run. Planning this event begins in September and continues until the day before the event. Students are divided into mentor groups and each group is assigned a team to assist. It is an inspiring learning experience for both the elementary kids and the Chickens. In addition to mentoring, students create numerous posters filled with creative science facts, provide concessions throughout the day, and create awards for the winning team.
In addition to running the tournament this year, the ThunderChickens also hosted a VEX exhibition at ThunderQuest. By demonstrating our team’s VEX robots and playing in exhibition matches, our team showed FLL participants that they could stay involved in robotics beyond elementary school.
By Devpreet Chahal