School kids all over the country are being encouraged to enter New Zealand’s most exciting science and technology competitions for students – FIRST LEGO League and FIRST Tech Challenge. The Boeing Company announced new funding for travel grants to help with the cost of attending tournaments at ACG Strathallan in Auckland along with providing robot kits for rookie teams.
Now in its seventh year in NZ, the FIRST LEGO League competition invites school students aged 9 to 16 to design, build and program fully autonomous LEGO Mindstorms robots, and create innovative solutions to an identified real world problem as part of their research project. The competition is run in 80 countries around the world with more than 29,000 teams taking part each year.
“Over the years, we have had school children from the Kaipara Harbour in the North Island to Bluff in the South Island entering the challenges. The cost of equipment and bringing a team of up to 10 members to Auckland can be difficult for many educators,” said Jason Kyle, Kiwi FIRST. “We hope this new funding from Boeing will really motivate and make it easier for more students from around the country to enter.”
“This year’s FIRST LEGO League challenge is all about how to better understand and manage rubbish and recycling so our future engineers and inventors start solving these real world problems right now. Its well-honed unique combination of project and robot design provides a fun, relevant STEM learning and team-building atmosphere culminating in celebration of success at the tournament with recognition well beyond just the best robot,” he added.
Maureen Dougherty, president of Boeing Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific was in Auckland for the announcement.
“This year, Boeing celebrates its 100th year of innovation and our success comes from having smart people who love science and technology. That’s why FIRST is such an exciting program – the way it really challenges and inspires kids here in New Zealand and around the world,” she said.
“It’s little wonder there is such interest in FIRST in New Zealand. The country is well known within Boeing for its love of innovation, science and, of course, aviation. After all, we made our first international sale down here – two Boeing Model B&Ws – in 1918, just two years after the company started,” she added.
The Boeing funding of $50,000 will support at least 10 travel grants, and also fund 15 new FIRST LEGO League teams, seven new FIRST Tech Challenge teams, new Android-based technology transition hardware for existing teams and several workshops for coaches during school term 2, hosted by ACG Strathallan in Auckland, to assist teams and coaches.
Following a sports model, FIRST Tech Challenge teams of high school students design, build, program, and operate robots of their own design to play a floor game in an alliance format. Guided by adult coaches and industry mentors, students develop STEM skills and practice engineering principles, while realising the value of hard work, innovation, and sharing ideas. Teams are encouraged to fabricate using raw materials in conjunction with a base set of pre-manufactured parts and leverage additive manufacturing processes such as 3D printing.
The FIRST LEGO League Champions Award team and top two FIRST Tech Challenge teams from New Zealand will be invited to the prestigious FIRST Championship in St. Louis in the United States.
Schools interested in entering FIRST LEGO League or FIRST Tech Challenge can visit www.kiwifirst.org and need to register their interest by 30 April 2016.