Iowa State University
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News Service

News Service:

Annette Hacker, director,
(515) 294-3720

Office: (515) 294-4777

1-8-08

Contacts:

Camille Sloan Schroeder, College of Engineering, (515) 294-9965, camilles@iastate.edu

Mike Krapfl, News Service, (515) 294-4917, mkrapfl@iastate.edu

Record 70 LEGO-building teams study energy, compete for Iowa Championship

AMES, Iowa -- Their missions -- like always -- seem challenging.

Teams of up to 10 9- to 14-year-olds are to build LEGO robots capable of moving tabletop models that simulate all kinds of energy tasks: harvesting and processing corn; setting up wind turbines; raising a solar panel to the roof of a house; connecting communities to a power plant; deploying the solar panels of a power satellite; replacing a pickup with a hydrogen car; plus nine other possible tasks.

But show up at the seventh annual FIRST LEGO League Iowa Championship -- it's 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 19, in Howe Hall of Iowa State University's College of Engineering -- and you won't find students scratching heads and looking confused.

You'll find them screaming at the fun of it. You'll find them cheering for their teammates and their robots. You'll be surprised at how much of a spectator sport a game of science and technology can be.

This year's contest is built around the theme "Power Puzzle."

"How do our personal energy choices to heat our homes, fuel our cars, charge our cell phones, power our computers, or even download music to our iPods impact the environment, economy, and life around the globe?" asks a Web page for the international contest. "Which resources should we use and why? Can FIRST LEGO League teams find the ultimate solution to this global Power Puzzle?"

Teams have been working on their solutions for nearly five months. They've programmed their robots and practiced their missions. They've also picked a building, evaluated its energy use, researched ways to reduce its energy consumption and proposed short- and long-term energy solutions. As part of the championship, the teams will report their findings to judges.

This year more students than ever will be demonstrating what they've learned. Camille Sloan Schroeder -- the coordinator of Iowa State Engineering Kids, a program that promotes science, technology and engineering to elementary and secondary students -- said 70 teams have signed up and another 20 are on a waiting list.

"We will have a full, full house," she said. "We know kids like this. But their coaches get pretty pumped about it, too."

This year's contest includes teams from all over the state and a few from neighboring states: Power Fellows from Ames; Energized Bunnies from Cedar Rapids; Firebolts from Columbia, Mo.; Eco-Bots from Davenport; Brick Burners from Marshalltown; Data Dragons from Omaha, Neb.; Solar Surferz from Ottumwa; Team Smartical from Sioux City; and Blockheads from West Des Moines.

The winner of the competition may have the chance to compete at an international competition.

But there's more to the contest than trophies and possible trips.

"This is not just about the tourney," Schroeder said. "It's about the experience these kids have and the work they do."

The Iowa Championship is sponsored by Iowa State's College of Engineering and Rockwell Collins, the aerospace and defense company with headquarters in Cedar Rapids. It is free and open to the public.

The international contest is sponsored by FIRST, a nonprofit organization based in New Hampshire that's dedicated to inspiring young people to explore science and technology, and by The LEGO Group, the Denmark-based toy manufacturer.

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Quick look

Up to 700 young students will compete in the seventh annual FIRST LEGO League Iowa Championship from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 19, in Howe Hall of Iowa State University's College of Engineering. The event is free and open to the public. It's loud and fun, too.

Quote

"We will have a full, full house. We know kids like this. But their coaches get pretty pumped about it, too."

Camille Sloan Schroeder, the coordinator of Iowa State Engineering Kids