"We're excited to jumpstart the FLL contest for our region. This not only will help students build science and technology skills, but will foster team-building, too," said tournament organizer Rebecca Parks, who is the education specialist for SpringBoard, a program of the Juneau Economic Development Council.
This year's theme challenge is energy management and conservation, she said, and teams are invited to build robots, using packaged kits, to demonstrate this theme. Groups from Juneau and Hoonah have been working on their projects for two months. There are three teams each from Dzantiki Heeni and Floyd Dryden, and one each from Glacier Valley, Riverbend, Gastineau schools. Also participating are teams from the Boys & Girls club, a home school program, and two teams from Hoonah.
"We hope the challenge will catch on and that more schools from Southeast will participate in 2008," she said. "I'm already hearing from some that missed the deadline for this year."
The opening ceremony this year begins at 1 p.m. on Sunday November 18 at Centennial Hall. Competition follows, and a closing ceremony is slated for 4 p.m., she added. The event is open to the public.
Groups will be rated on teamwork, design and programming by a host of judges, including Barbara Thomson, Commissioner for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. The overall winning team from Southeast will compete in Anchorage on January 12. Alaska's winners will go to Atlanta, GA next April for the national competition.
"JEDC and SpringBoard think science and math education are important for our future workforce development. Science, engineering and technology jobs are needed now in Alaska and nationwide. We hope this kind of competition gives some students an increased interest to become scientists," she said.
Parks stressed that she has 15 volunteers to help with the event but 15 more are needed before Sunday. Persons interested can call (907) 523-2334 or email her at email@example.com.
"This tournament would not have been possible without all the coaches and mentors, all who volunteer up to 10 hrs a week to prepare," Parks said. "I'm pleased with the number of teams but thrilled with their dedication. The coaches are mostly teachers that take this on as volunteers, putting in as much time as some athletic coaches and receiving no compensation."
Sponsors for the Southeast Alaska First Lego League tournament include ConocoPhillips, AEL&P and Hansen Gress.
SpringBoard, a partnership between JEDC and the US Department of Defense, is a statewide program to help transfer and commercialize DoD technology, including its research, inventions, patents and laboratory facilities. SpringBoard also faciliates research projects between government agencies, universities and private companies and promotes science and math education in grades K-12. More information at www.gospringboard.org.