Lego robots to battle waste – and each other

Date: 23 January 2016

Time: 10:00

Location: Queen Mother Building

Host: Dr Karen Petrie

Lego robots will this weekend battle it out at the University of Dundee to prove they have what it takes to help to tackle the world’s waste problems.

The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) event will see teams of youngsters aged 9-16 from the Tayside area compete against each other in a series of challenges designed to make the participants think about the challenges created by waste. It takes place at the University’s Queen Mother Building from 10am to 3pm on Saturday, 23rd January.

Having designed and built autonomous robots using mechanics and Lego, the young master builders and inventors have been gearing up to put their robots and ideas to the test at tournaments across the country. This is the culmination of months of engineering design, programming, and research, led mainly by teachers with mentoring from professional engineers and university academics.

The Dundee event is the final Scottish heat to take place and the winners of all regional tournaments will go on to the UK national finals hosted by the Institution of Engineering and Technology. A winning team will then be selected to represent the UK at the world final in St Louis, USA later this year.

Dr Karen Petrie, from the University’s School of Science and Engineering, said, “We are excited to be hosting this event and look forward to seeing the robots in action. The teams have spent three months designing, building and programming Lego robots to tackling a variety of missions concerning waste.

“This makes them consider the problems that are caused by the way rubbish is created and disposed of and also show them that they can make a positive difference to their communities and the wider world through the STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

FLL is a global science and technology aiming to encourage an interest in real world issues and develop key skills that are crucial for the particpants’ future careers. The students work together as a team to explore a given scientific topic and plan, program and test an autonomous robot to solve several missions. In 2015, over 250,000 children from over 80 countries are taking part, and more than 1000 Scottish schoolchildren have taken the chance to revel in robotics so far.

The Scottish programme is run by the RSE Young Academy of Scotland (YAS) and Lambda Jam, a non-profit organisation aiming to help children develop problem-solving skills relevant to the technological era. A primary focus of the partners has been to broaden participation in FLL to ignite an interest in engineering and computing, with a bursary scheme set up to provide the pupils with robot kits, training and support.

Organiser Dr Laura Meikle, from Lambda Jam, said, “We have been running FLL in Scotland for three years and it continues to go from strength to strength. The appetite to take part has been phenomenal. The combination of Lego - the world’s most popular toy - with technology is definitely part of the appeal. However, it’s the focus on a major world issue which really draws a diverse group of children, making it a unique STEM initiative.”

YAS member and FLL organiser Fiona McNeill added, “At the Young Academy of Scotland, we are really focussed on helping kids to access the amazing possibilities in technology and engineering - industries which are crying out for enthusiastic people and which see thousands of jobs go unfilled. FLL is fantastic for helping kids see how exciting and creative engineering and programming can be.”


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