CHULA VISTA, Calif. (NNS) -- The 9th annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGO League (FLL) qualifying tournament took place at Eastlake High School (EHS) showcasing the robot-building talents of elementary and middle school students, Nov. 4.
This year, more than 60 Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) Headquarters, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), and Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) employees served as judges, referees, time keepers, scorekeepers, coaches and mentors in preparation for and during the event.
FLL supports nation-wide science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiatives to inspire the next generation of innovators. The program exposes students to real-world engineering challenges and software programing techniques through the creation of LEGO robots. Twenty-four teams consisting of up to 10 students each, all aged 9 to 14 years old, competed in four areas: Core values (teamwork), research project, robot design/programming and the robot game.
Brian Williams and Wanda Curtis, both SSC Pacific employees and STEM robotics outreach coordinators, were the lead organizers for the FLL tournament at EHS in partnership with students of EHS FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) Team Titanbot. Curtis has been organizing the FLL tournament at EHS since its inception in 2008. This is Williams' second year as an organizer for the tournament.
"Our FIRST LEGO League tournament is one of the capstone events for SPAWAR's robotics outreach program," said Curtis. "We have an invested interest throughout the year to interact and mentor students who have an inherent drive to take part in STEM and robotics. Every year the students continue to make the competition more fierce and exciting to watch. It is particularly exciting to watch some of our 70 SPAWAR mentored teams compete."
Throughout the day, the competitive robot games, virtual reality demonstrations and active U.S. Navy robots flooded the EHS gymnasium.
"This is my 8th year supporting FIRST LEGO League and it's always so rewarding," said Mark Winso, Navy expeditionary execution lead, PEO C4I shore and expeditionary integration program office (PMW 790). "What I love to see most is the passion and energy the students have during the robotics competition. Each team truly seeks to invent the best robot in order to win. Hopefully their ambition continues well past high school because we need inventors like this in the engineering and technology workforce!"
The tournament's distinguished guests and robot inspectors included: Rear Adm. Ronald Fritzemeier, SPAWAR chief engineer; Greg Shaffer, SPAWAR assistant chief engineer; Capt. Mel Yokoyama, SSC Pacific commanding officer; and Dr. Stephen Russell, SPAWAR director of science and technology.
"Words cannot describe how impressed I am with all the hard work from every team," said Fritzemeier. "It's always a fun experience to judge competitions like this and I'm also always fascinated by how this generation thinks, creates and energizes an idea. Young adults, like I saw today, showcase the strong future the United States as a whole and U.S. Navy have for STEM career candidates."
Only seven of the 24 teams who competed moved on to the next round to participate in the FLL Southern California Regional Championship scheduled early December at LEGOLAND California.
The teams advancing include: Hydro Hawks, COWBOTICS, Logos Bots, Brain Busters, MR. HAMS, Dailard Mechanical Dolphins and Robo Griffins.
SPAWAR is the Navy acquisition command that develops, delivers and sustains advanced information warfare capabilities for warfighters. SPAWAR, along with its system centers, space field activity, and its partnership with three program executive offices provides the hardware and software needed to execute Navy missions. With over 10,000 active duty military and civilian professionals located around the world and close to the fleet, SPAWAR is at the forefront of research, engineering and acquisition, keeping forces connected around the globe.
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For more news from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/spawar/.