The 6th Annual Hawaii FIRST LEGO League Championships were held on Saturday, Dec 11, 2010 at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena. The FIRST LEGO League (FLL) introduces younger students to real world engineering challenges by building LEGO based robots that complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. This year's theme was medical related with challenges simulating a rapid blood screening, artery stent, cardiac missions, brain missions, bionic eyes, etc. Teams must design, build, test and program an autonomous robot to accomplish the Challenge Mission on the playing field. The game is based on a point system and each team has three qualifying rounds. Each round is 2:30 minutes long. In the video students from Pauoa Elementary School program their robot to perform predefined tasks. Once activated the robot is autonomous, functioning without remote controls. Each team is allowed only two members at the playing field at a time although they can switch out by tagging one of their members. Aaron Dengler, science teacher at Punahou School told me that FLL is less about robotics and more about engineering and team work. Each of the robot kits include a controller, sensors, mechanics and power. Bringing it all together is an engineering task. In addition to the design, testing and performance, each team has to research the theme and do a presentation to a panel of judges. Months of planning and activities lead up to the FLL Championship. I was quite impressed with the enthusiasm each of these young teams demonstrated and felt reassured that this program is an excellent feeder into futures in science and technology.
The 3rd Annual Pan-Pacific VEX Competition was held at the Hawaii Convention Center on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 3-4, 2010. 112 teams from across the U.S. including 12 from Mainland China competed in the event. This year’s game, Round Up, is played on a 12’x12’ square field. Two alliances – one “red” and one “blue” – composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a twenty-second autonomous period followed by two minutes of driver-controlled play. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than your opponent alliance by scoring tubes upon goalposts, "owning" goalposts and by low hanging or high hanging from the ladder in the center of the field. A bonus is awarded to the alliance that has the most total points at the end of the Autonomous Period. You can see in this video how the robots need to pick up as many rings and place them on goalposts located along the rim of the playing field or those distributed in the playing field. The robot designs differ primarily in the way they pick up the rings. In the examples in the video, the teams build robots to scoop the rings up to place them on the goalposts. In this alternative design an arm is placed in the hole of the ring and holding the ring in place. Additional rings can be grabbed, one on top of the other. One interesting bonus point exercise had the robot latching onto the triangular structure in the playing field and lifting itself above the yellow rung. This is the largest regional VEX tournament which leads up the the World Championships in Orlando Florida on April 14-16, 2011. Winners from the Pan Pacific VEX Competition this weekend will continue on to Orlando to represent their school and State. ***UPDATE - 12/5/10, 7:28pm: The winning alliance of the HECO Division included ‘Iolani School, Bellarmine Preparatory Academy (Team A) and Bellarmine Preparatory Academy (Team B) from San Jose, California. Waiakea High (Team A), Waiakea High (Team B) and Tianjin Nankai Huanghedao Primary School (Tianjin, China) took second place in the HECO Division. The ROC Division champions included Island School, Radford High and Waialua High. Honoka‘a High, Radford High and Waialua High earned second place in the ROC Division. The champion alliance of the HECO and ROC Divisions competed in the high-stakes final championship rounds. In the end, the three-team alliance from ‘Iolani School, Bellarmine Preparatory Academy (Team A) and Bellarmine Preparatory Academy (Team B) from San Jose, California took the top honors, finishing as the Pan-Pacific Champions. Six Hawai’i schools who competed at the Pan Pacific Championship qualified to advance to the VEX Robotics World Championship that will take place at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, April 18-20, 2011, including:
- Highlands Intermediate School
- ‘Iolani School
- Island School
- Radford High
- Waiakea High
- Waialua High