Since 2002, the Chattanooga Engineers Club, through Chattanooga Robotics, has participated in the First Lego League competitions. Created by FIRST (usfirst.org), the First Lego League to serve the age range from 9 to 14, there are now more than 5000 teams. These are international in scope and are based on the use of a robot game and a research and presentation project to explore a contemporary theme. The ages involved are 9-14 amd include both middle and elementary schools, as well as homeschoolers and community organizations (boy scouts, etc.) serving the same age range.
In 2008, we had eleven FLL teams from two private schools, three public schools, five home school groups, and one community group. Each team consists of 4 to ten team members, one or more coaches, a robot (Lego NXT), and a 4 foot by 8 foot worksurface containing about fifteen tasks or “challenges”. In the competition, each team has three attempts (each 150 seconds long) to complete as many tasks as possible. Each team must also present a brief presentation on the research done on the project “theme” for that year.
Since 2007, we have participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge, for high school students. This involves a game-playing robot, both autonomous and under remote control, with two “drivers” controlling the robot on a 12ft X 12ft playing surface. Four teams compete, two red and two blue, in “round robin” competition.
In 2008, we had two high schools participating, one public and one private. The task involved moving and scoring 70 red and blue “street hockey” plastic pucks (hollow and one ounce weight) by four remote controlled robots in a 150 second competition. The pace is fast, but not furious, as rules of “gracious professionalism” are strictly enforced.
Since 2007, we have supplied equipment and instructors to the Chattanooga State Technical Community College summer robotics programs for ages 13 and up. These sessions are based on teaching the principles of robotics as used in the First Lego League competition, compressed into five days. There is also an opportunity for the local robotics teachers to earn CEU’s during the summer break. Thus, both students and teachers are served by this program.
In 2008, 42 students will participate and several former students will return as “mentors” to help in training.
We also provide programs through the Craetive Discovery Museum Science Theater and a number of public elementary and middle schools (in cooperation with a TVA elementary school project) to provide noncompetitive programs similar to the First Lego League during the spring semester.