Robots designed and built by secondary school students using LEGO will be strutting their stuff at Dublin City University this weekend, competing in Leinster’s FIRST LEGO League finals.

FIRST is an acronym for ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology’, and the FIRST LEGO League encourages children to think like scientists and engineers, developing practical solutions to real-world issues.

Seven teams from Dublin and Wicklow schools are due to compete, having spent the past four months designing, building and programming an automated robot from scratch, using LEGO Mindstorms, to take on a number of challenges in the Robot Game.

Teams have also had to develop a research project around this year’s competition theme, which is hydro-dynamics, finding ways to improve how people find, transport, use or dispose of the world’s precious water resource.

The Irish teams in this year’s Leinster final have been developing apps to help people measure their water use (‘If you measure it, you treasure it’), writing songs to inspire responsible water use (‘Let it Flow’) and even examining products that might convert urine back into drinking water!

The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international competition involving students age 11 to 16 from 80 countries.  Irish education specialists, Learnit, have brought the FIRST LEGO League to schools in Leinster and Munster in recent years.  

Learnit works in partnership with the DCU-LEGO Education Innovation Studio and with support from Science Foundation Ireland, with the aim of increasing STEM awareness in young people.  (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects)

The Leinster teams competing this weekend will present their robot to a panel of judges and will be assessed on their LEGO robot’s performance and design, coding skills and mission strategy.

Teams will also present their Hydro-dynamics research project to the panel to evaluate the quality of their research, the problems and solutions discovered, and their presentation skills.

Throughout the FLL experience, teams operate under a signature set of core values which include teamwork, sharing of experience, discovery, the spirit of friendly competition, gracious professionalism and co-operation.

Cooperation and Competition

The concepts of cooperation and competition are intertwined in FIRST LEGO League, conveying the idea that, by working together, we all win, according to Ross Maguire of Learnit.

“The FIRST LEGO League is so much more than a robotics competition.  It is a platform for students to discover the world of STEM and to collaborate on real-world problems.  These young people are taking the first steps to becoming tomorrow’s innovators, creators and problem solvers”, Ross Maguire says of the DCU event.

Teams of up to ten children, with at least two adult coaches, can participate in the FIRST LEGO League, with students aged from 11 to 16 years taking part in the main League competition and a Junior League designed for those aged from six to ten.

The FIRST LEGO League is incredibly beneficial for students, engaging them in mechanical design and construction, programming, problem-solving, research and teamwork, according to Diarmuid McNamara from Rosmini Community School, one of this year’s league finalists.

“As an engineering teacher, I strive to get the students more interested in all the practical aspects of the subject.  This project gives students, who may never have thought about a career in STEM, an insight as to what it might look like.  Some of our students taking part have taken time this year to visit college open days to find out more about engineering, computer science and coding.  Previously they might never have considered STEM in further education”, Diarmuid McNamara from Rosmini Community School in Drumcondra says.

Dublin secondary schools participating in the FIRST LEGO League finals this week include Coláiste Eoin in Finglas; St Columba’s College in Whitechurch; The High School in Rathgar; Rosmini Community School, Drumcondra; Belvedere College in the city centre; and St Mary’s Secondary School in Glasnevin.  Gaelcholáiste na Mara from Arklow in County Wicklow will also compete.

If you are interested in registering a team for next year’s competition visit https://www.learnit.ie/fll

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