Tomorrow’s engineers, computer programmers and scientists of west Tennessee gathered at the University of Memphis to compete in the region’s First LEGO LEAGUE (FLL) Championship, held Saturday, Jan. 26, 2019.
Event organizers welcomed more than 40 teams with 350 students and 150 parents and/or teachers, who all had one main objective in mind: a big win.
TVA Board Member Ronald Walter helped to kick off the competition with a cordial welcome, setting the tone for the day. “It is very clear that you have taken your studies seriously and creatively.” he said. “There is absolutely no doubt that you will be eminently qualified for one of the 2.5 million STEM jobs that will evolve by the time you enter the workforce. You will make the 21stcentury workforce the best of the best!”
Months of hard work and preparation led students to this day, after their challenges were first issued in August 2018. The best teams from four qualifiers—or mini-tournaments—competed into the regional competition, which was themed “Into Orbit.” Students, ranging from grades 4 to 8, had to work together to solve a problem; to design, build and program a robot that could accomplish missions; and to present their projects to judges.
One of the competitors was Emma Caesar, a fifth grader who represented the Shining Stars Robotics Team. After two years of robotics, she said her favorite part is working together to complete a mission and the life lessons that followed. “I’ve learned to work with other people, to respect everybody’s ideas and to express my own ideas,” she said.
Emma’s mom, Lisa Caesar, a former TVA Customer Service engineer, said she has seen her daughter’s growth as she follows her path to a STEM-related career.
“Emma has always been the math and science kid. It’s been really interesting to see her confidence and their teamwork, despite their different personalities and strengths. It’s fun to see so many young kids interested in the engineering field, robotics and electronics.”
At the day’s end, the first place Champion’s Award went to E3 Strike, the second place to E3 Spark and third place to Hawkbotics — Gold, all of Clarksville, Tennessee. Several other standout teams won in a variety of other categories also, but Tournament Director Frank Niedzwiedz said the biggest reward was from the skills students learned along the way.
“This is all about getting kids interested in STEM,” Niedzwiedz said. “More and more in our world, no matter which vocation or career you go into, technology impacts what you do. If students can use math and science to solve real-world problems, they will always have a job. Everyone needs a little bit of technology in today’s world.”
This event was sponsored by TVA, Tennessee Valley Robotics and the Society for Information Management. It was jointly organized by the Herff College of Engineering at the University of Memphis, and the Memphis branches of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and the Tennessee Society of Professional Engineers.