Troy, N.Y. — Have you ever thought about the disposable plastic straw in your drink at a restaurant? When you finish your meal and leave, what happens to the straw? Just ask the 14 elementary and middle school teams from the Capital Region that will compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Regional Qualifying Tournament on Dec. 12 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). More than 140 students have been working together to use their imaginations and creativity in combination with science and technology to seek ways to discover the hidden (or not so hidden) world of trash in order to make less trash or improve the way people handle the trash we make.
The global FLL competition is being brought to the region for the eighth time through a partnership between Rensselaer, Hudson Valley FLL, and NY Tech Valley FIRST sponsors. The program kicks off with the opening ceremonies at 9:25 a.m. in the Darrin Communications Center (DCC), room 308. Immediately following, the robotics competition begins and culminates with a closing ceremony and awards presentation beginning at 3:30 p.m.
As part of this year’s challenge, titled TRASH TREK℠, more than 233,000 children ages 9 to 16 from over 80 countries will explore the fascinating world of trash. From collection to sorting to smart production and reuse, there is more to your trash than meets the eye. Teams will choose a piece of trash, and identify a problem with the way we may make, transport, store, or turn the trash into something new; and then work on finding a solution that adds value to society by improving something that already exists, using something that exists in a new way, or inventing something totally new.
“By challenging teams to discover new ways to make less trash and improve the way we handle our current trash, we are also asking students to take responsibility for their future and use innovation as well as technology to improve our current systems,” said Jordan Vener, who serves as senior program administrator for Interactive Technologies in the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE), which works with area teachers and students to promote the use of robotics in the classroom.
“The Trash Trek Challenge really taps into a familiar topic that students, mentor coaches, and community members may otherwise take for granted,” said Vener. “The tournament provides students with an opportunity to understand common themes that connect science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), while addressing current solutions that may or may not be working. Most important, I know a handful of teams that have taken advantage of this opportunity to reach out to community sanitation and recycling experts, and we encourage this kind of collaboration and discussion because we want our students to meet members of the community and learn how STEM careers improve and preserve our way of life.”
Participating middle schools and programs include: Algonquin Middle School, Broadalbin-Perth, Broadalbin-Burnt Hills, North Albany Academy, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk, Robert C. Parker School, Saratoga County 4-H, Shenendehowa Middle School, Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School, William S. Hackett Middle, and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, along with a home school team from Greenfield Center. The tournament is supported by more than 50 volunteers, including Rensselaer students, faculty, and staff, along with area students from high school robotics teams.
“After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates in high-energy, sports-like tournaments around the globe,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor in the Rensselaer Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering department, and director of the university’s Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE). “It’s amazing to watch the teams of children guided by their volunteer coaches as they demonstrate their problem-solving skills, creative thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship, and sense of community. We’re proud to host this competition because events like this not only help students to bring technology to life through their hands-on participation, but it can also inspire them to consider future careers as scientists and engineers.”
The FLL Championship tournament for the region will take place on Feb. 27, 2016, on the campus of Dutchess Community College.
FLL is a partnership between the LEGO Group and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to motivate young people to pursue careers in science, technology, and engineering. FLL is the middle school component of the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international contest that teams professionals and young people to solve an engineering design problem in a competitive way. For more information, visit: http://usfirst.org/
To view the TRASH TREKSM Challenge video, visit: http://www.firstinspires.org/fll/challenge