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April 19
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[KHTS] – More than 200 Santa Clarita Valley elementary and junior high school students came together to compete in a FIRST LEGO League Qualifying tournament on Sunday.

“FLL stands for FIRST LEGO League. FIRST stands For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” said Janny Zhang, Media correspondent for the FLL Qualifying tournament and treasurer for FRC team Project 691. “The focus is on inspiration, these kids can be as young as 9 years old all the way up to Junior High and they’re just starting to get into this stuff so we want to make it as fun, engaging and awesome as possible.”

The free event was held at the West Ranch High School Gym in Valencia.

“The kids program the robot and it completes their mission. There’s a lot of innovation with the legos. For example there is one mission where you have to push one building over without knocking another over,” Zhang said. “There are so many different ways to program the robot to do the mission.”

FIRST LEGO League is an organization which focuses on helping students learn about science and technology.

“We have a research project which they give a presentation, this year’s is natural disasters. They pick a real problem in a real community and they have to come up with a creative solution and they have to share it,” said LeRoy Nelson, operational partner for the FLL. “The other part is the engineering part.  The kids build a robot and put it on a board and try to complete various missions which they earn points for.”

The teams prepared for 8 weeks prior to the qualifying event and some may even make it to the International competition.

“26 teams are competing today and this is just one of 11 qualifying events,” Nelson said. “The national event is at Torrance High and the International competition is in St. Louis where we have more than 22,000 teams from 70 countries. The best compete in the international  competition.”

The main volunteers who organized the event are part of the FIRST Robotics Competition team Project 691 which is a group of students from the William S. Hart School district.

“We’re doing this event to reach out to the public and spread what FIRST and the FLL has to offer,” said Aaron Dolgin, FLL qualifying tournament assistant and vice-president of Business and Marketing for the FRC team Project 691. “Most of the volunteers are part of the FRC Team 691 where we build 6 foot tall, hundred pound robots who compete at the varsity level.”

This year’s competition is called Nature’s Fury and is based on what science and technology can do to help with natural disasters.

“For us, we wanted to host an FLL event so that teams in the Santa Clarita Valley can compete locally and don’t have to travel far away,” Dolgin said. “We’re also trying to educate the community for people who are not involved in first and to show them that there are other things to do. Not just yearbook, football or basketball but there are other things for other kids to do.”

This is the first qualifying tournament to be held at West Ranch High School by Project 691.

“Basically all of these teams are here because they want to learn about science and technology, STEMS,” said Tyler Arrowsmith, the main coordinator for the FLL qualifying tournament and vice-president for the FRC team Project 691. “I have spent the last three months preparing for this tournament, getting everything ready, contacting first, getting all of the supplies.”

After all of the competitions are over, the judges deliberate and ultimately decide on the winners and who gets to move on to the National competition.

“There are five main awards,” Zhang said. “The first is based on robot performance, the second is based on robot design, the third is based on project which is based on natural disasters this year, the fourth is championship and the fifth is core values.”

The event was open to the public and anyone is welcome to join future events.

“The goal is to get kids to be excited about science and technology,” Nelson said. “We partnered with LEGO to create a competition to give kids a chance to get real life experience in science and engineering.”

Through hands-on experience and working in teams, children have a chance to explore a real-world issue to gain an appreciation for and interest in science and technology, according to the FLL website.

“For these kids to build robots and program them, even if they’re just made out of legos, it’s really amazing to see them do this,” Zhang said.

About Project 691

Project 691, is an FRC team of 30-40 students from various high schools from all over the Hart District, including Academy of the Canyons, Hart, West Ranch, and Valencia High Schools. Every year, they spend six weeks building a 120 pound, 5 feet tall robot that they will use to take part in the annual FRC, competing against more than 2,000 other teams worldwide. If any students are interested in joining the program, they can visit team691.org/altsite to learn more.





Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $16 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC® ) for Grades 7-12; FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL® ) for Grades 4-8; and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for Grades K-3. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to www.usfirst.org. To learn more about the “NATURE’S FURYSM” Challenge, go to www.FIRSTLEGOLeague.org.



The LEGO Group is a privately-held firm based in Billund, Denmark. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children’s creative and imaginative abilities through high-quality, creatively educational play materials, and its employees are guided by the motto adopted in the 1930s by founder Ole Kirk Christiansen: “Only the best is good enough.” For more information, visit www.LEGO.com.

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