By Shelly Browne
Take several homeschooled boys, aged 10–14, add a pile of LEGO bricks, a robot, and a challenge to solve, and you get a LEGO robotics team! Our organization, ARCHERS for the Lord, Inc. (The Association of Relaxed Christian Home Educators), decided to participate this past year. During our first year of participation in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO robotics, we built the game set in the basement of one of our leaders and used her kitchen for filming a video about the research project.
The FIRST LEGO robotics program emphasizes teamwork, innovation, and courteous professionalism in their worldwide competitions. The program kicks off in August with the announcement of the theme for the year. Past themes have included bone cancer and alternative energy. This year’s team was “The Food Factor,” and all projects were to focus on food safety. Each team works together to build a robot that moves and lifts objects with handheld robot controllers. There is a series of competitions, although a team doesn’t have to be part of the actual competition process. In fact, there are even ways to participate with just your own family; however, we found that the learning process the boys experienced as part of a group was well worth the additional organizational work on the part of the parents.
One Wednesday afternoon, the boys met around a homemade plywood table, and each chose a piece of the setup to build: rat traps, cold storage trailers, cows, a giant sink to wash germs in, and towers holding bacteria and viruses for the LEGO robot to contain. Their challenge was to remove food-borne illness and contaminants from farm, trucking, and fishing industries and to get the food safely to the table within two and a half minutes, using the robot they would build. (more…)