SANDPOINT — A host of Lego-slinging engineers will descend upon local schools this weekend.
The First Lego League is back this year, and Sandpoint is going to be a major hub for the regional phase of the competition. An event that challenges students age 9 through 14, the Lego League comes in two parts. First, student teams use a kit to design their very own robot, which then competes in obstacle courses performing various tasks. The other side of the competition encourages students to develop their academic and innovative side, presenting them with a societal problem and asking them to offer potential solutions.
For the past two years, Washington Elementary teacher Dinah Gaddie and Farmin Stidwell teacher Alan Larsen have been instrumental in providing local kids with the opportunity to participate in this international event. Interest in the program has multiplied over the years, and now Sandpoint will host 30 teams consisting of 147 individuals from around Washington and Idaho for the regional competition on Dec. 8.
“Last year, we only had 16 teams, but now everyone wants to come to Sandpoint,” Gaddie said.
The competition theme this year is “Senior Solutions” and asks participants to develop ideas and inventions that make aging easier. Gaddie said her students have come up with ideas like Alzheimer’s treatments, technology to relieve common aging issues like loss of hearing and even a robot that assists with everyday tasks while providing companionship.
“I really like this year’s theme because it brings along a very human element,” Gaddie said. “These students all have grandparents and know what it’s like.”
The teams will test their ideas, along with their robot engineering skills, at Sandpoint High School between 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. next Saturday. The public is welcome to come and watch as they compete and are judged in four areas: project presentation, teamwork, robot performance, technical design and robot programing. On a local level, Washington Elementary is sending four teams into the mix, while Farmin Stidwell is contributing two. The top team will advance to the University of Idaho North State Championship this January.
“It’s exciting to see the students putting this much work into this,” Gaddie said.