FIRST Lego League, an organization that teaches students ages nine to 14 how to build robots out of Legos, is the after-school program everyone dreamed of as kids. All is not lost to college students who might have missed out on the opportunity to participate, however, as students at the U can volunteer as mentors or coaches.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization that seeks to help kids worldwide by providing them with the skills necessary “to become leaders and innovators and enhance their 21st century work-life skills.”
Kids involved in FIRST Lego League are placed in teams and instructed by volunteer mentors and coaches. Each team, which consists of up to 10 kids, works together to build robots out of Legos. Students then program their robots to complete specific tasks and take them to compete at regional, state and national levels.
FIRST Lego League’s vision is “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”
The organization wants to go beyond math and science skills to teach life lessons to students.
“More than anything, they help each other,” said one volunteer. “There’s a real sense of community between the kids. It’s really fun to watch.”
“We learned that winning isn’t the most important thing and your experience and if you have fun is more important,” said a Lego League participant and competitor with the team Dark Matter.
On top of working together to build robots, kids in FIRST Lego League are challenged to think of solutions to some of the problems faced by the community. For example, Dark Matter created a mock-up for an app that aims to reduce roadkill by alerting drivers via GPS when they’ve entered areas where animals are frequently spotted or cause accidents.
There are plenty of opportunities for students at the U to get involved in FIRST Lego League. At local qualifying events happening this month, students can volunteer as referees and judges.
“Look to see if there are any events you can volunteer for,” said Jan Rogers, a program Lego League director. “Start getting involved.”