It’s an inarguable fact of life that Legos are the greatest things ever, a playtime staple whose potential is limited only by your imagination and however many bricks are in your collection. They’re also subtly educational - secret little lessons in engineering disguised as multicolored fun dumped across the living room floor. That’s the aspect of Lego that the Rhode Island School of the Future is trying to tap into with its annual First Lego League competition.
“Our goal is to help children understand that science, technology, engineering and math help make life better and is fun and interesting,” explains Mary Johnson, Acting Executive Director or Rhode Island School of the Future.
Nick Corey, currently a freshman engineering student at Roger Williams University, was 15 when his team won first place in 2010’s competition. “It really sparked my interest into delving more into the realm of engineering,” he says. “I’m hoping to graduate with a mechanical engineering degree, and utilize my engineering skills to help others. Over the summer, I participated in a mission trip to Jamaica and it was there that I decided I wanted to make advancements in water filtration and other things in that realm that help countries that really need it.”
The competition asks elementary and middle school students to work together in designing, building and programming Lego robots for a series of timed challenges based on a theme. The idea is that the same imagination and creative problem solving applied to a shapeless pile of Legos can be applied to the fields of science and technology.
This year’s theme is Nature’s Fury, so imagine Lego droids bringing aid supplies to storm victims or removing branches from power lines. Between rounds of saving Legoland from the ravages of natural disasters, the teams will present indings based on research topics of their choice as they relate to the theme. “They learn about more than just robots,” says Johnson.
On Saturday, January 11, Roger Williams University will host the big show as the qualifying 40 teams compete for the top prize – a $20,000 scholarship to RWU for each of the winning team’s members.