More Than 400 Students to Converge on Idaho Campus for FIRST LEGO League Competition

Tuesday, January 13 2009

Jan. 13, 2009 Written by Leah Andrews MOSCOW, Idaho – More than 400 third through eighth graders from around the state will test their abilities to build and program robots to solve problems at the FIRST LEGO League tournament at the University of Idaho on Saturday, Jan. 17, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Idaho Commons and from 1 to 5 p.m. at the ASUI-Kibbie Activity Center. The university's College of Engineering and College of Agricultural and Life Sciences are Idaho’s partners for FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League, a national program that inspires young people to be science and technology leaders. The event is free and open to the public. “We have a responsibility to provide opportunities for the next generation to explore engineering, science, math and technology,” said Don Blackketter, dean of the College of Engineering. “The College of Engineering is dedicated to captivating and fostering a student’s interest at an early age, and the FIRST LEGO League program is an excellent way to encourage students to use engineering and science to find new solutions.” The students might not know that they want to be engineers or scientists yet, but they do know how to program their autonomous robots to do different tasks like moving and picking up LEGO pieces. In addition to the robot competition, students also participate in a teamwork task, explain their design methodology and present a report on a topic associated with the theme for this year’s competition – climate connections. The teams use their robots to accomplish missions that simulate climate-related solutions, like constructing levees out of LEGO pieces, or moving a polar bear from one location to another to simulate the study of wildlife. “We need to allow students to develop realistic perspectives of science and engineering, and we need to help them recognize how much fun they can have,” said Timothy Ewers, Extension/4-H youth development specialist in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. And fun definitely is a component of the program; students wear matching outfits to tournaments and give their teams fun names like the Robot Rebels, Super Powered LEGO Maniacs and LEGO Leprechauns. “The collaboration of community members who volunteer, University of Idaho departments, and the national FIRST LEGO League program creates exceptional experiences for Idaho students, and is a testament to a shared vision and dedication to opening the world of science and engineering to all,” said Jean Teasdale, assistant dean for recruitment and research in the College of Engineering. Representative Liz Chavez of Lewiston welcomed the opportunity to engage young learners. “The University of Idaho continues to find new and wonderful ways for children of all ages to grow and learn,” Chavez, said. Chavez is unable to attend the event because the Legislature is in session. Tom Luna, superintendent of Public Instruction, will be at the First LEGO League Championship cheering the students on. # # # About the University of Idaho Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit Media Contact: Leah Andrews, College of Engineering, (208) 596-2046 cell,; Tim Ewers, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, (208) 596-4333 cell,; or Becky Highfill, NASA Idaho Space Grant Consortium, (208) 596-5707 cell,

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit