PUBLISHED: 4:24 PM on Wednesday, October 17, 2007
FIRST LEGO League Tournament in Southeast Alaska expected to bring in 150 students
On Nov. 18, students from around Southeast are invited to Juneau to compete in an exciting sports for the mind as part of the FIRST LEGO League. FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, designs accessible, innovative programs that build science and technology skills and interests, along with self-confidence, leadership, and life skills.

FIRST LEGO League is an international program for 9 to 14 year-old children created in a partnership between FIRST and The LEGO Group in 1998. Each September, FIRST LEGO League announces the annual challenge to teams, which engages them in authentic scientific research and hands-on robotics design. Using LEGO MINDSTORMS technologies and LEGO play materials, children work alongside adult mentors to design, build and program robots to solve real-world challenges. After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments.

The tournament is being organized by Springboard, a program of the Juneau Economic Development Council. Springboard's mission is to provide Alaskan businesses with financial and technical tools so they can develop products and services that can help meet the needs of the Department of Defense. Springboard recognizes that supporting science, technology, engineering and math education is an essential component for achieving that mission.

David Sheakley/Juneau Empire
  Dennis Barril, Sam Hughes, and Sarah Monagle at FIRST LEGO League.
Hosting a regional tournament was first proposed to teachers and administrators in the Juneau School District at the end of the '06-'07 school year. Principal Tom Milliron took an immediate interest in the program. "It is a wonderful opportunity to enhance and extend students' application of technology, science, math and language arts by connecting to their intrinsic motivation to participate in fun, hands-on, creative and competitive project-based learning. None of the students will ask, 'Why are we learning this stuff?' The result is a multifaceted big bang for the buck." Floyd Dryden Middle School was the first to commit to the program by registering three teams in July. Since then, 12 teams have been registered in Juneau alone and approximately 150 students are preparing for the tournament in November.

This year's FLL Challenge calls for students' to use robotics to understand and create solutions for one of today's most critical environmental issues: energy management and conservation. With missions exploring solar panels on houses, hydro-dams, wind turbines and planting trees, teams will program their robots to find sustainable options to meet our planet's growing energy needs in environmentally sound ways.

"The environment is a huge concern for everyone, including kids," said Dean Kamen, FIRST founder. "Giving them a hands-on experience that allows them to use their imaginations and creativity in combination with science and technology to solve a real-world problem is empowering. It captures the true spirit of FIRST LEGO League and unleashes the creative problem-solving skills today's kids need for building a better tomorrow."

The FIRST LEGO League tournament will be held on Nov. 18, at Centennial Hall and is open to the public. Springboard is actively seeking volunteers and sponsors for the event. For information, contact Becca Parks at or 523-2334.