GARY | Coaches, classmates and families cheered from the sidelines Sunday as teams clad in a rainbow of T-shirts from Northwest Indiana schools demonstrated how they used engineering, computer programming and research skills to build robots to solve real life problems.
The FIRST LEGO League regional competition held at Indiana University Northwest’s gymnasium showcased the talents and teamwork of elementary and middle school students in head-to-head competitions in three major activities — robot design, core values and project judging.
Lincoln SmartBots from Hammond’s Lincoln Elementary School took top honors at the tournament and will advance to the state competition Dec. 9 at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne.
Other elementary teams headed for the state tourney are Hammond’s Edison, The Third Generation; the Hammond Morton Meteors; and the Hammond Jefferson Electro Apprentices. Highland Middle School’s Highland Robotrix also will go to state.
The worldwide contest for students ages 9 to 16 focuses on improving the quality of life for senior citizens by helping them continue to be independent, engaged and connected in their communities, according to the FIRST LEGO League web site, www.firstlegoleague.org.
Students designed and programmed robots made from LEGOS to complete 14 missions or tasks on a large rectangular board within a 2-1/2 minute time limit.
They also, explored numerous problems faced by people as they age, including memory loss, osteoporosis, arthritis, glaucoma and breathing issues, and came up with solutions to address these challenges.
“We learned how to help each other,” said Kenadee Williams, 11, a sixth-grader at Scott Middle School and a member of the Scott Botz team. “If we had a problem, we learned how to fix it. We also learned about osteoporosis and designed a pill to help with balance and strengthen bones.”
This LEGO competition “is a great way to get young learners involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education,” said Matthew J. Benus, assistant professor of science education at IUN, who helped run the event.
“They are learning habits and practices of the mind that are demanded for the 21st century workforce,” Benus said.
IUN education students were among the dozens of volunteers who served as judges, table setters and timers for the event.
“We’re hoping that they become interested in becoming coaches and start teams at their schools when they become teachers,” said Dana Dodson, assistant professor of math education at IUN.