FIRST® LEGO® League success

8 January 2019

Last year, a team of Year 6 students from Timberley Academy, under the guidance of science teacher and assistant vice-principal Mr Ian Griffiths, took part in the FIRST® LEGO® League competing in the Regional Finals of the competition at Birmingham University in December.

FIRST® LEGO® League is a global science and technology challenge for teams of students, to encourage an interest in real world issues and develop key skills that are crucial for their future careers. The students work together to explore a given topic and to design, build and program an autonomous LEGO® robot to solve a series of missions.

The topic for 2018/19 was INTO ORBIT and the teams had to identify a physical or social problem faced by humans during long duration space exploration within our sun’s solar system and suggest a solution.

Sending people into space is one of the hardest challenges humans face. Rockets are complex and dangerous, and space is an unforgiving place. Space explorers face the physical problems of just staying alive, and if they are away from Earth for years at a time, they may also face social problems as well.

Ian Griffiths explains more:

The FIRST® LEGO® League is for young people aged nine to 16 years, who are supported by an adult coach. Our team comprised of seven Year 6 children, two girls and five boys, all with a real interest in science. As this was the first time we had entered the LEGO® League, we didn’t really know what to expect. However, as they progressed through their designs and research, the children really came together as a team. They naturally split themselves into the research team and the designing and coding team. Both worked extremely hard, with minimal input from me.

“It was the first time that I’ve done anything like this and it was great – I’ve learnt so much. I would love to learn even more about virtual reality uses in space.” Team member

The team received their challenge in September and spent 10 weeks working together. They had to build a robot using a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® kit that they then had to program to autonomously complete a series of missions. They also had to complete a research project to learn more about the science and engineering behind the challenge theme. The children decided to research how to combat isolation in space and completed a PowerPoint on the theme, which they then had to present. This was something that none of the children had done before but they excelled when the time came.

The team had to deliver their research presentation and demonstrate their robot at the regional tournament at Birmingham University. The children were questioned about their robot design and their knowledge of the core values of FIRST® LEGO® – this involved some team work challenges too.

We were the only primary school taking part alongside eight other secondary school teams. We won the best robot design, achieved the most points and were the overall winners! We now go through to represent Birmingham at the national finals on 16 February, at Bristol University. The children are very excited about this!

The team now have to go away and work on the feedback they’ve been given. This includes contacting experts to talk about the team’s virtual reality ideas to combat isolation in space, as well as improving the robot to complete even more challenges and score more points!

“It looks quite easy when you first start but it is actually quite hard. You need a lot of determination to succeed at the coding tasks.” Team member

I really wanted to do something to raise science capital in the school and without a doubt, this has done it. I have already got Year 5 children asking me what next year’s challenge is! As a school, we cannot be prouder of their achievements! It is all down to their hard work and determination – I would highly recommend this competition to any school teacher looking to extend learning in STEAM subjects.

Solve problems using: The FIRST® Core Values We express the FIRST® philosophies of Gracious Professionalism® and Coopetition® through our Core Values:
* Discovery: We explore new skills and ideas.
* Innovation: We use creativity and persistence to solve problems.
* Impact: We apply what we learn to improve our world.
* Inclusion: We respect each other and embrace our differences.
* Teamwork: We are stronger when we work together.
* Fun: We enjoy and celebrate what we do!

Look out for details of the 2019/20 challenge. The challenge will be released at the end of August.

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