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Young LEGO Engineers Tackle Nature's Fury at RWU

More than 300 local students pitted their robotics designs against the challenges of natural disasters at the Annual FIRST LEGO League State Championship on Jan. 11
Two members of Team Overflow from Barrington Middle School direct their robot during the tournament held at RWU on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.

BRISTOL, R.I. – Fire Fury, Storm Watchers and Sandy Solvers were among the suitably named teams of elementary and middle school students that competed Saturday at Roger Williams University in the Annual FIRST LEGO League “Nature’s Fury” Robotics State Championship tournament, sponsored by National Grid. 

FIRST LEGO League is a hands-on science, technology, engineering and math enrichment program that combines the excitement of robotics with a research project that encourages scientific literacy. The tournament is managed by Rhode Island School of the Future.

Forty teams of students ages nine to 14, from across Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts spent the morning presenting their robot creations and research projects to judges and the afternoon in a high-energy, sports-like tournament, where their robots navigated through a series of obstacles on a game field made of LEGOs.

This year’s theme — “Nature’s Fury” — challenged students to research and create solutions that tackle common challenges related to natural disasters. The projects ranged from emergency kits for pets to an avalanche alert system for skiiers, and from an iPad app that warns of tsunamis to a crowd-sourced communication plan to make sure that snow is removed from fire hydrants quickly after a snowstorm.

Each team was judged on robot building, core values and research, and in categories such as robot design, robot strategy, research quality and teamwork. The team earning the highest cumulative score across all judging categories wins the Champion’s Award and may be eligible to participate in either the FLL International Open in Toronto, or the FLL North American Open at LEGOLand California.

The winners of the Champion’s Award are also awarded a Roger Williams University scholarship - a four-year scholarship of $5,000 per year, a $20,000 scholarship in total.

“Roger Williams has long had a tradition of saying to the winning team, we’d love to have you here. To show that our words have meaning, each member of the winning team will get a renewable $5,000 a year scholarship at Roger Williams University. We love this group because it is so connected to our theories of learning here on campus,” said RWU President Donald Farish during the opening ceremonies on Saturday morning. 

President Farish was then presented a plaque of appreciation from Mary Johnson, executive director of the Rhode Island School of the Future. “We wanted to present Dr. Farish with a plaque of our appreciation, this is the 8th year we’ve hosted the championship event at RWU and about five years ago, the University started offering the scholarships to the team that won the Champion's Award," Johnson said.

As of this fall, the first winning team to receive RWU scholarships has sent the first-ever scholarship recipient — Nick Corey, an engineering major — to RWU. "The kids do follow through and we want to thank you again for the scholarship, its been a great partnership over the years,” added Johnson.

This year's Champion's Award and RWU Scholarship was awarded to Team Overflow from Barrington Middle School. The full list of award winners is available at: http://www.risf.net/first-lego-league/.

To see highlights from the tournament, view the slideshow below: