Friday, December 28, 2007

Aviation HS hosts LEGO robotics tournament

More than 200 elementary and middle school students descended on Long Island City's Aviation High School to compete last weekend in a LEGO-based robotics tournament for a chance to earn a spot in a nationwide championship to be held next year in Atlanta.

Students, ages 9 to 14, from 24 borough school-based teams showed off their technological skills to a panel of judges and scientists Saturday at the FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament, during which they crafted robots to carry out various duties that pertain to real-world problems, including the environment and energy production, said Norman Scott, a former Queens school teacher who was involved in overseeing the day's events.

"The concept behind this was to create a sporting team atmosphere for science," he

For its 10th year, the competition, which is sponsored by the FIRST organization and LEGO, incorporated a theme called Power Puzzle, which explored how to save energy in a world where people use it more each day, a spokesman for the competition said.

FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - was founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen to get children excited about technology.

Students taking part in this year's competition followed a program from the beginning of their school year, that included researching a real-world problem, presenting solutions, building a robot using engineering concepts, programming the robot and, at the competition, using the robot to carry out tasks, such as removing hazardous materials from a plastic floor mat that acts as a research field, Scott said. Teams of no more than 10 students worked together during the competition to complete tasks with their robots.

Team coaches said the event enabled students to think outside the classroom.

"Kids love it," said coach Richard Akalski, who teaches science at East Elmhurst's Lewis Armstrong Middle School. "It gives them something on which they can focus their classroom skills."

Joan Weber, assistant principal at Glendale's IS 119, said her school's team is probably the only one in the borough which meets during school hours. She said she believes that the school's students benefited from applying information from their classes to the project.

"The children are fully immersed in it during the day rather than waiting until after school," she said.

Students taking part in the competition said it was a great learning experience.

"We learn about how to become a team," said Anthony Gonsalez, 12, a seventh-grader at Flushing's JHS 185. "Sometimes it's not about doing it alone, but asking others to help you."

Scott said most of the students at the competition were from Queens' Region 4, which encompasses the western portion of the borough.

The top 16 teams at the competition will soon compete in a citywide competition, Scott said. The winners at that event will then go on to compete at a nationwide competition in Atlanta in April, he said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

©Times Ledger 2007

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