Nov 012011
 
The First Lego League is a national program to get kids aged 9-14 interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through interaction with the LEGO Mindstorms robotics platform. The program was started 10 years ago by Dean Kamen (the inventor of the Segway) in partnership with LEGO. The program culminates with a yearly robotics competition, that has teams of up to 10 kids designing LEGO Mindstorms robots to autonomously interact with a LEGO-based ‘environment’, competing against other teams for the highest score in a points-based mission environment.
The Nebraska competition was started 5 years ago by the Boys and Girls Club, and has grown steadily. The 2011 competition this last February at the SAC Museum saw 50+ teams from NE, IA, MO and KS compete against the clock (and each other) for the chance to go on to the national competition.
I have been involved with the project from the beginning, sometimes as a judge, and sometimes as a referee. In the last few years, many of my colleagues at the AIM Institute have volunteered as well as referees.
Because of the increase in the number of teams interested in competing, the need for volunteers continues to grow. Two important factors have increased the need for more volunteers this year:
  • Because of the large number of teams, there are now 3 qualifying tournaments leading up to the ‘final’ tournament in February: Omaha (Dec 3), Lincoln (Dec 10) and Kearney (Jan 7). So they need volunteers (referees, judges, support staff) for all 4 tournaments. The final tournament is Feb 18, 2012.
  • I will not be able to act as head referee this year, because my wife and I are coaching a team (the Bellevue-Offutt Homeschool Group First Lego Lunatics)
If this is something that interests you, your support would be greatly appreciated. Each tournament consists of a full Saturday. If you’re a referee, you’ll just need to understand the scoring of the different missions and score each round accordingly. If you’re a judge, you’ll be listening to presentations given by the teams and scoring them against a standard rubric. If you’re support staff, you’ll probably be doing a lot of directing of human traffic.
For more information and to sign up to volunteer, visit http://4hset.unl.edu/4hdrupal/node/638 . If you have questions, please contact me and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction. Thanks!

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