FIRST Lego League Robotics Enriches Local Science Education

Published: February 01, 2018 | Author: Kaden Mcbride | Read Time: 2 minutes

information systems professor building robots out of legosSouthern Utah University is offering exciting opportunities for kids to explore and create through the FIRST Lego League (FLL). On January 20,  SUU faculty and students oversaw a regional tournament with the 33 teams for FLL and its sister organization, FLL Jr., at Cedar Middle School as part of their effort to inspire, engage and educate students.

In FLL, students ages 9 to 14 years old gain an appreciation for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) concepts as they design, build and program a Lego Mindstorms robot to perform autonomous missions on an obstacle course during a two minute match. Students also research and develop innovative solutions to current problems confronting scientists and society while practicing the FLL core values of teamwork and professionalism.

Younger students, ages 6 to 9 years old, participate in FLL Jr. by researching a problem facing society. They then design and build a Lego model with at least one movable part, and present a poster documenting their journey. Unlike the rest of the FIRST programs, FLL Jr. is non-competitive.

Last fall, Dr. Dezhi Wu, associate professor of information systems at SUU, connected with students interested in STEM at Iron Springs Elementary School in order to form a FLL Team.  Wu was able to enroll 46 students ranging from first to fifth grade in her STEM Club. Funding came from a grant as part of the Utah Legislature Award to Southern Utah to support STEM initiatives. Wu was able to build infrastructure for her STEM Club at Iron Springs Elementary School and employed six SUU students to coach and mentor student teams.

hydro dynamics stem club fll team cedar cityChildren were also coached by SUU faculty and volunteers as they learned how to work with their teams to share knowledge, compare ideas and build their robots. Four FLL and two FLL Jr. teams that are a part of Wu’s STEM Club have been working together to find solutions for this year’s challenge theme, “HYDRO DYNAMICS.” All of Wu’s student teams were able to participate in this year’s qualifier competition at Cedar Middle School.

“This project has been extremely fulfilling, exciting and educational,” said Jared Porter, an SUU information systems major and one of the coaches for the club. “I was profoundly grateful for this opportunity. Dr. Wu’s efforts have benefited our community by offering services that are not found elsewhere. As a father of children who attend public schools in this community, I say thank you.”

Future STEM Club activities will introduce students to various STEM activities including computer programming and building a computer. Wu’s hard work and dedication enriches SUU students’ educational experiences and makes a positive impact on Cedar City’s local elementary schools by inspiring future computer scientists and engineers.

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