Robots and Lego make for a killer combination — one that hundreds of students made use of Saturday to put their problem solving skills to the test.
About 500 students from across Alberta gathered at NAIT for the First Lego League robotics competition, where they were tasked with building and designing robots to take on table-top challenges.
"The robots that we use here are fully autonomous," said Melvin Stocking, one of the tournament directors. "They're not remote-controlled at all. So the students have to plan ahead and really problem-solve."
Groups of innovators from Grades 4 to 9 worked together to complete a series of challenges, where they moved their robots across a map to perform various functions.
The goal of the program is to get kids interested in science and technology, while giving them the ability to troubleshoot and work in teams, said Stocking.
"Lego's not the focus, really. It's problem solving, science technology, and engineering," Stocking said. "Lego's just … a platform that most students can use, but the program that they're doing is very high quality."
Isaac Winter, 11, said he enjoys competing and checking out the robots made by other teams.
"It's just a fun learning experience," he said. "You get to build a robot, you get to program it, you get to hang out with your friends."
Solving real-world problems
Competitors did more than build robots.
"The students need to investigate a topic or problem that they see in our world today, come up with a solution, and they develop it and present it at our tournament," Stocking said.
This year, the focus was on problems associated with water. Winter's team developed a rubber tube attachment that helps people fill their bottles at water fountains.
"They absolutely stun me with the solutions they can come up with and the energy they have to do it with," Stocking said.
More than 60,000 teams across the world take part in the program, he added.
The winners of the Edmonton tournament get the opportunity to compete in California or Texas.