The Iowa FIRST LEGO® League State Championships: crowds, bright minds and robots

A huge crowd of students and their supporters gather for the Iowa FIRST LEGO® League State Championships.

Students and their supporters gather in Howe Hall for last year's Iowa FIRST LEGO® League State Championships. Larger photo. Photo courtesy of Iowa FIRST LEGO® League.

AMES, Iowa – Students from across Iowa are preparing their teams and their LEGO® robots to help solve the world’s water problems.

Their preparations are all part of this season’s Iowa FIRST LEGO® League State Championships Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 13 and 14, at Iowa State University’s College of Engineering. Both days will feature 60 teams of 9- to 14-year-olds that have advanced from regional competitions.

Both days run from 9 a.m. to about 4 p.m., with opening and closing ceremonies plus robot action in Howe Hall. Both days are free and open to the public.

If you join the 3,000 expected to attend over the weekend, you’ll see energy, colorful team T-shirts and brainpower. There will also be displays of teamwork, “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition.”

Those last three are part of the contest’s core values. Values that also say, “What we discover is more important than what we win.”

This year’s FIRST LEGO® League challenge is “Hydro Dynamics.” The challenge is asking students “to improve the way people find, transport, use, or dispose of water.”

Teams will have to identify a water problem, research it, design a solution and share their ideas. They’ll tell judges all about their sources, analysis, review, innovations and any ideas for implementation.

Then there’s the competition’s robot game, the part that creates screams, cheers and high fives.

Each team builds and programs a LEGO® robot that can zoom across a game table and move models or levers built of LEGO® pieces. The idea is to complete 18 missions that simulate a water issue. The robots, for example, will have to move a broken water pipe, make a cloud release raindrops, move a water filter into place and flush a toilet.

“This program is designed to get students excited about science, technology and engineering,” said Camille Sloan Schroeder, the K-12 community outreach manager for the College of Engineering and director of Iowa FIRST LEGO® League. “This is a fun-filled, exciting weekend to celebrate the accomplishments of all the teams.”

Then she added a little cheer for the 120 teams preparing for the challenge of this year’s state championships: “Let’s go H2O!”

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This year’s Iowa FIRST LEGO® League sponsors are the Iowa State College of Engineering, John Deere and Rockwell Collins. FIRST LEGO® League is the creation of FIRST, a nonprofit organization based in New Hampshire dedicated to inspiring young people to explore science and technology, and the LEGO® Group, the Denmark-based toy manufacturer.