Montana State University

MSU to host elementary, middle and high school students in regional robotics tourney

January 28, 2015 -- MSU News Service

Students from Montana, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming will test their robots against each other on Friday, Jan. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 31, in the annual Montana State University College of Engineering First Robotics championship. Photo courtesy of MSU College of Engineering.

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Students from Montana, Washington, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming will test their robots against each other on Friday, Jan. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 31, in the annual Montana State University College of Engineering First Robotics championship.

The robots will run in Shroyer Gym on the MSU campus with events set for noon to 5 p.m. both days.

Students in grades 7-12 will compete in the First Tech Challenge (FTC). Teams are responsible for designing, building and programming their robots to compete against other teams. The robot kit is reusable from year-to-year and is programmed using a variety of languages.

FTC teams, including coaches, mentors and volunteers, are required to develop strategy and build robots based on sound engineering principles. Awards are given for the competition as well as for community outreach, design and other real-world accomplishments.

Students in grades 4-8 will compete in the First Lego League (FLL). These tournaments introduce younger students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface.  With the national theme of “World Class Learning Unleashed,” FLL competitors engage in the learning process and work on a research project based on the theme.

“This is our 10th anniversary for the First Lego League in Montana. We’re now seeing MSU engineering students who got started in FLL when they were younger,” said Allison Banfield of MSU, who helps organize the event. “These are our future engineers. They like tinkering and designing. It teaches design strategies and teamwork, which is one part of the judging.”

Participants come to the state championship after earlier qualifying and practice meets.

“Students love the level of engagement, independence and, even in some ways, the challenge of it all” said Rob Reynolds, coach of seven school teams from Eureka. “….students have gained a level of confidence that is allowing them to take these skills and give back to the community.”

Banfield said the number of teams that participate in the event has grown over the years. This year, the MSU competition is expected to involve 40 FTC teams, with four to eight students per team. The FLL age group will draw 59 teams, with 10 kids per team.

Sponsors for the events include Advanced Electronic Design, Oracle, ExxonMobil, Workiva, American Computer Museum, Verizon Wireless, MSU College of Engineering and the Montana Space Grant Consortium.

For more information, visit www.coe.montana.edu/first.

Contact: Allison Banfield, (406) 994-7915 or abanfield@ece.montana.edu