A team of local schoolchildren are taking part in the world’s biggest interactive robotics competition thanks to sponsorship from the University of Ulster.
Pupils from St Columb’s College in Londonderry will be among 30 local schools competing in the FIRST LEGO League’s (FLL) Robotics Challenge 2010 regional tournaments in W5 at the Odyssey, Belfast, which was officially launched at the venue today.
They will join over 90,000 budding young scientists from across the globe as they bid to design, build and program a winning robot that must perform a series of set tasks linked to a research presentation on 30 November and 1 December this year.
Course Director for Biomedical Engineering at the University of Ulster, Dr Adrian Boyd, said: “The FIRST LEGO League is the perfect hands-on environment to learn about STEM subjects and have some fun in the process. It also provides an opportunity for aspiring young scientists and engineers to be innovative, creative and to develop their skills.
“Ulster’s Faculty of Computing and Engineering has always been at the forefront of promoting science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects. It is critically important to invest in our young people and to encourage them to explore the potential of a career in these subject areas as our future prosperity depends upon it.
“We have already been using the LEGO Mindstorms systems in the Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) at the University to help us promote STEM activities through the work of Dr Richard Holmes and were very keen to participate again the First Lego League competition.
“We hope this year’s competition acts as a platform to enthuse the next generation of scientists and engineers who will become the cornerstone of Northern Ireland’s future economy.”
Each year a theme is chosen for the challenge based on current, real-world issues. In 2010 FLL teams will learn about the inspiring world of biomedical engineering through the theme ‘Body Forward’.
Participants will discover innovative ways of repairing injuries, of overcoming genetic predispositions and, of maximizing the body’s potential. Guided by a team coach and assisted by mentors from the sponsoring companies, each team of up to 10 pupils will research and produce a solution to the theme, present their findings and build an autonomous robot using engineering concepts, all in a sports-like competition atmosphere.
The winning team will be invited to take part in the UK and Ireland final on 22 January 2011 and may go through to the World Festival in St Louis, United States in April 2011 and other International FLL tournaments.
In addition to sponsoring the local team, Ulster’s Faculty of Computing and Engineering is also sponsoring the Northern Ireland heat winner to travel to Loughborough to the UK final in 2011.
The LEGO League is being brought to Northern Ireland through a partnership of; The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), University of Ulster, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB), SAP Research (SAP) and W5. These organisations have teamed up with leaders in the fields of education and industry to spearhead the initiative.
The League was designed to introduce children aged 10-16 to the fun of solving real world problems by applying maths, science, and technology. The partners are hoping the LEGO League in Northern Ireland will help develop the next generation of innovators and achieve the government's target to increase the number of undergraduate students involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects by 25% by 2015.
For full details about the Robotics Challenge 2010, visit the FLL website at www.firsthandtechnology.org.uk .