On Saturday, the 13th, I attended the Oregon state-level First Lego Robotics League (FIRST) tournament. A month ago, I watched the regional tournament for the Canby area and a year ago, I actually participated by giving the theme presentation and a demonstration of home-built robots. The state contest this year hosted 79 teams from schools and communities around Oregon this year.
If you aren't familiar with the program, take a look at this blog and the FIRST web site. When most people think of Lego, they thinks of kids stuff - building forts, cars, little house and the like. The Lego MindStorms robots though are pretty serious. It has a 32-bit Arm7 microcontroller and an 8-bit AVR micro-controller. It's primarily programmed with a tool based on a graphical object oriented programming system from National Instruments.
The most amazing part of the whole program is that the competitors are 5th through 8th graders. These are kids, but the are kids already preparing to become the next generation of hardware engineers, software developers and systems engineers.
From a distance, the activity in the darkened arena could almost be mistaken for a 19th century boxing match off in the warehouse district of old Chicago. But it's all 21st century - all about technology, teamwork and friendly competition. All about building a foundation in these kids to someday do what you and I do.
My son's team, Robiki, didn't make the Nationals this year. But they had a good time, showed great team spirit and ate a lot of pizza. That's important too.
Robots - Not just for World domination anymore