Clusters of Lego pieces, wires and teenaged robot programmers engaged in measuring and processing data on laptop computers packed the multipurpose room at Rancho Pico Junior High on Saturday for this year’s Lego League regional qualifying tournament.
FIRST is a national program founded in 1989 to inspire interest and participation in science and technology among America’s youth.
More than 200 students from schools and organizations across Southern California strategized, assembled and taught their plastic creations how to move around the pool table sized playing fields.
Twenty-four teams vying for the competition’s top spot had to score above par in three separate categories before qualifying in a future regional championship.
In the first of three sections, teams had to produce a Lego robot and program it to navigate a maze. After successfully traversing the maze, the robots retrieved Lego objects and returned to their programmers.
The competition requires more than just an apt for programming and building. It also requires competitors to conduct research and core values projects where students demonstrate a culmination of skills learned, facts and tests collected and conducted, as well as a knowledge of principles involved in studying the science of robotics.
Each team was paired with a mentor from the William S. Hart High School District’s district-wide Robotics program, Team 691. The team is composed of students from Academy of the Canyons as well as Hart and West Ranch high schools.
Founded in 2000, the Hart district’s program promotes education in science and technology through a student-led robotics team. Students in the program invest several hours a week designing and testing robots. The three-month program prepares its teams for First Robotics, the high school program. After spending approximately 20 to 30 hours per week over the course of six weeks building and programming, teams ship their robots out for competitions.
“It’s a way of making science and technology practical for high school students,” program Director Dennis Smalley said.
Teams that successfully completed all tasks were awarded at the end of the night. Teams from Rosedell Elementary and Santa Clarita Christian Schools participated. S.C.C.A.R., Santa Clarita Christian School’s team, scored highest and placed first in the tournament.
The tournament’s top robotics teams will qualify for an upcoming regional event.