Kids Put Wits on Display in IBM Lego Challenge

Posted at: 12/11/2013 10:41 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- About 400 kids and teens put their brains to the test, making robots and programming them to do certain tasks. It was a Lego competition put on by IBM and kids from 4th grade on up from a couple dozen schools in the area were there to compete.

It looks like fun and games, but these robots weren’t just handed to students to test out, they first had to make them. "We would build a robot, the censors and other stuff that we want, then you would go into the computer and there are bricks or blocks that you would slide onto the screen, and you can put them in a specific order to make a program," said 7th grade John Adams student Andy Eggerbraaten.

"They're very powerful. You can do a lot of stuff with them. They have sensors that can detect light levels, or touches, or distance to an object," said Aaron Albertson with IBM.

The participants’ first task..."The robot is autonomously delivering pucks from one end of the arena to a scoring zone. They are trying to place them precisely into the scoring zone," said Albertson.

"It can get this jar lid and slide it to a goal post and then go back to its original starting position," said 7th grade John Adams student Aidan Finley.

That was the standard competition, one they had time to plan for, but the advanced one was just given out to them that day, and it was timed. Not to mention, it was a more challenging task too. "They get a set of starting and ending coordinates on the grid and there are land mines we call them, but it’s just obstacles on the grid," said Albertson.

Though the participants get pretty competitive, the benefits go beyond taking home the win. "They learn how to work as a team effectively, hopefully, and they also learn structured thinking," said Albertson.

"Some of my hobbies are with this, so it’s fun to have a competition at the same time," said Andy.

"I just like that it’s fun and entertaining," said 7th Grade John Adams student Samson Ellis.

IBM has been doing this for a few years now. It is generally an extracurricular activity, but some schools have added robotics training to their curriculum. The teams who won got a plaque, and of course bragging rights.