Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024
    Empowering Youth Through Robotics and Programming

    A program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is igniting a passion for robotics and programming among hundreds of students across the state. Coordinated by Nebraska 4-H, the FIRST Lego League provides an opportunity for students in grades 4 through 8 to work together in solving exciting robotics challenges using the classic building blocks. With an annual program that spans design, engineering, programming, and teamwork skills, participants not only have fun but also gain valuable insights into potential career paths.

    The program aims to plant a seed of enthusiasm in the students, showing them that their current hobby could potentially transform into a fulfilling career in the future. Keith Mandachit, a dedicated volunteer and electrical engineer, marvels at the direct applicability of the programming skills the students learn in the program to his own career. He recognizes that the ability to program a Lego robot to perform tasks is closely related to the automation processes he works on in fields such as pharmaceuticals, food manufacturing, and wastewater treatment.

    Each year, the teams engage in competitions centered around a theme and specific challenges. Their performance is assessed based on their research, demonstration of core values, robot design, and completion of tasks on a robotics playing field. These tasks may involve programming the robots to navigate obstacles, pick up and move items to specific locations.

    This year, 80 teams comprising 576 talented youths and 198 coaches are participating in the FIRST Lego League in Nebraska. The state tournament, where teams will come together to compete, will be held over two days in March. However, the reach of the program extends beyond Nebraska’s borders. FIRST, an international youth organization that organizes various robotics competitions, offers a platform for global participation and collaboration.

    For Jordan Dowdy, a coach for two teams, the First Lego League offers valuable learning experiences for participants of all ages. Younger team members learn the importance of collaboration and teamwork, while older members refine their skills and troubleshoot more complex designs. The program also encourages participants to identify and seek solutions to real-world problems related to the theme of the competition, fostering research skills and creativity.

    Beyond building robots and solving challenges, the First Lego League introduces students to the intersection of arts and technology. In one team’s research project, they developed a video game where players use a Lego fishing rod to practice fishing and learn more about different species. By integrating creativity into their work, the program sparks interest in hobbies and showcases the potential of arts and technology to capture people’s attention.

    Ultimately, the First Lego League goes beyond the competition and instills a passion for STEM fields in Nebraska’s youth. By aligning fun activities with potential career paths, the program inspires students to consider pursuing careers in engineering, programming, and robotics. With the guidance of dedicated volunteers like Keith Mandachit and the commitment of coaches like Jordan Dowdy, the impact of this initiative reaches far beyond the realm of a simple robotics competition—it’s about empowering young minds and preparing them for a future filled with opportunities.

    FAQ Section:

    1. What is the FIRST Lego League?
    The FIRST Lego League is a program organized by Nebraska 4-H and the international youth organization FIRST. It allows students in grades 4 through 8 to work together in solving robotics challenges using Lego blocks.

    2. What skills do participants gain from the program?
    Participants in the FIRST Lego League gain skills in design, engineering, programming, and teamwork. They also develop research skills, creativity, and problem-solving abilities.

    3. How are teams assessed in the program?
    Teams are assessed based on their research, demonstration of core values, robot design, and completion of tasks on a robotics playing field. These tasks may involve programming the robots to navigate obstacles and perform specific tasks.

    4. How many teams are participating in the FIRST Lego League in Nebraska this year?
    This year, 80 teams comprising 576 students and 198 coaches are participating in the FIRST Lego League in Nebraska.

    5. Is the program limited to Nebraska?
    No, the FIRST Lego League is an international program that allows for global participation and collaboration.

    6. What is the goal of the program?
    The program aims to ignite a passion for robotics and programming in students and show them the potential career paths in STEM fields, such as engineering, programming, and robotics.

    7. How does the program integrate arts and technology?
    The FIRST Lego League introduces students to the intersection of arts and technology by incorporating creativity into their projects. For example, one team developed a video game using a Lego fishing rod to practice fishing and learn about different species.

    Key Terms/Jargon:
    – FIRST Lego League: A program that allows students to participate in robotics challenges using Lego blocks.
    – Nebraska 4-H: The organization coordinating the FIRST Lego League program in Nebraska.
    – STEM: An acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, referring to academic disciplines and careers in these fields.
    – Robotics: The branch of technology that deals with the design, construction, and operation of robots.

    Related Links:
    Nebraska 4-H
    FIRST Lego League