In all of this, where does the robotics factor come into play? Desh Bagley, CEO of Tech PlayZone and Director of the Suncoast FLL tournament says LEGOs and robots are mere “hooks” to get young people interested and excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Bagley who has been involved with FLL through her company Tech PlayZone for the past six years played a pivotal role in facilitating the 2011-2012 regional FLL event. The tournament, held in January at Hillsborough Community College (HCC) at the Regent—the satellite campus of HCC in Brandon, brought together over 150 students not only from the greater Tampa bay region, but from Pasco, Pinellas and Orange counties.
The second portion of the game focused on researching, developing and sharing innovative safety solutions. Teams had to undergo a technical interview, talk to judges about their robot and programming concepts, and defend the individual theories and solutions behind their research. Kyle Coker and Hunter Dennis, 8th graders at Williams IB described the challenges as “a lot of fun.” Kyle, who aspires to be the “the next Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates” says what excites him about robotics is the opportunities. His fellow team mate Tushar’s take-home nugget lay in “winning is not everything…what matters is how you can apply what you learned to the outside world.”
Given the in-depth nature of the challenge, teams began working on their project in September 2011. For example, Williams IB Middle Magnet school in Tampa chose beef contamination
Indeed, the FLL competition has been an effective vehicle in not only cultivating a passion for STEM, but for sharpening leadership, teamwork, and communications skills. Kristy Weg, coach for Williams IB says being part of the FLL has helped students expand their knowledge about science beyond learning definitions and text book reading. “They get to see science as a conduit for solving problems, sparking new technologies and innovation that has real- world applications.”
For more information about the FIRST Lego League and regional competitions visit www.firstlegoleague.org. For information on TechPlayZone visit www.techplayzone.com, or contact Desh Bagley at 813.684.7329. To enroll in FLATE’s robotics camps visit www.fl-ate.org and www.madeinflorida.org, or contact Dr. Marilyn Barger at firstname.lastname@example.org.