School of Engineering Hosts Youth for LEGO Challenge

June 01, 2008 | Marcie Anglen

Nineteen teams participated in the FIRST LEGO League and Junior FIRST LEGO League competitions in April on the campus of Walla Walla University.

FIRST—For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology— was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, New Hampshire inventor. The organization's goal is to create exciting ways for students to learn about math, science and engineering.

It is the goal of WWU's School of Engineering to inspire the minds of young engineers. The ages of this year's participants ranged from 6 to 18 years old. They came from as far away as Nome, Alaska, and as close as Rogers Adventist School in College Place, Wash.

Elementary and middle school teachers, or even an interested parent or coach, has the ability to enroll students. They then provide the students with a programmable LEGO brick called a Mindstorm, and allow them to design, build and attach appendages for executing various tasks.

The project for 2008 involved analyzing a power puzzle. Teams did research and presented their findings at the challenge.

One of the four judging criteria required teams to perform several missions with their robots on a table of LEGO parts. These included putting a solar panel on a house; setting a dam between two banks of a river; moving trees that needed planting; taking oil barrels off of a drilling platform; and several other engineering feats.

Points were rewarded based on the number of tasks completed, and were deducted when robots required human intervention to continue.

Awards were presented to: Robo Ranchers (a home school team) for Robot Design; BV Bots (Buena Vista) for Robot Performance; The Roadrunners (Emerald Christian) for Teamwork; and Red Baronz (Cedarhome) for Project Presentation.

The Champions Award was given to the three top teams: Team UCA (Upper Columbia Academy), Parabolas (Spokane Jr. Academy), and Greener Than Ever (Sager Elementary). The teams who received the Champions Award were invited to go to the Adventist Robotics League National Challenge, which was hosted at Andrews University in May.

Scoring was based on points. It was possible for multiple teams to place first, second or third in the same category. All participating teams received certificates for their individual achievements.

"This is our third year, and I was very pleased with the coordination and help from the volunteers," says Marlene Baerg, WWU's School of Engineering associate dean and LEGO event coordinator. "We are all looking forward to seeing the participants in the engineering world in the near future."

North Pacific Union Conference summer camps are now running LEGO robotics activities as a result of the encouragement of the School of Engineering.

WWU's School of Engineering will host a weeklong seminar in June for potential coaches for next year's teams. For more information about the seminar, visit

For more details about participating in next year's event, visit the above Web site or call (509) 527-2765.