SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- The Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Lego League (FLL) Qualifying Tournament at Eastlake High School in Chula Vista, Calif., Nov. 4.
SSC Pacific co-hosted the event along with the National Defense Education Program, Eastlake Education Foundation, the Sweetwater Union High School District, and Eastlake High School's FIRST Robotics team, the TitanBOTs.
This year's tournament hosted 24 student teams from across San Diego County, with the outcome of the tournament determining who would move forward to the Southern California Championship held Dec. 1-2 at the LEGOLAND California Resort.
Rear Adm. Patrick H. Brady, commander of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), was on hand to welcome students, their families and members of the community to the event.
Brady highlighted the importance of technology in support of the Navy's mission, and the need for current students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) degrees, eventually replacing the current STEM workforce when they retire.
"Most of the 9,000 people in my command have technical degrees but they will be eligible for retirement near 2020, around the time that you will be graduating," said Brady, as he spoke to the audience. "We need you to be the next generation that helps us take things to the bottom of the ocean, satellites into space, and build stealth aircraft.
Adding additional Navy flair were SSC Pacific's Color Guard and the Navy Band Southwest, along with more than 60 civilian and uniformed SPAWAR personnel who volunteered their time to act as speakers, judges, referees, coaches and mentors.
Promoting the creativity and fun involved with STEM at an early age was key among SPAWAR personnel at the event.
Carmela Keeney, executive director at SSC Pacific, participated as one of the robot inspectors. Keeney noted how impressed she was with the confidence level of the students and their approach when it came to building their robots and communicating as a team.
"SSC Pacific is very interested in robotics," said Keeney. "We use unmanned vehicles, unmanned undersea vehicles, ground vehicles, and air vehicles, so it's great to see these kids' interest in robotics at a young age; their interest is very important to the Navy and Department of Defense."
Once the opening ceremony was completed, robotics teams moved forward in their quest for triumph, competing in multiple rounds with each other until the top 12 were left to move onto the championship event.
FLL is an international robotics program for students ages nine to 16 and is designed to provide children with an opportunity to explore science and technology while also discovering employment opportunities, career paths and life skills. Every year, the program focuses on a specific theme, around which teams design their required components.
"Senior Solutions" is the theme of this year's challenge, requiring FLL teams to solve a problem faced by seniors as they age. Groups competed in three areas, the "Robot Game," "Core Values," and the "Research Project."
SSC Pacific has a robust education outreach program. This year, the organization sponsored 40 FLL teams, with 16 competing at this event. SSC Pacific collaborated with local organizations to sponsor the FLL Qualifying Tournament as a venue for local teams to come together to compete in an entertaining environment to promote science, technology, engineering and math.
"Robotics is a confluence of several different fields and technologies," said Jim Rohr, SSC Pacific education outreach director. "This program allows students to come together and work as a team, which is part of the engineering experience. Similar to sporting events, these tournaments allow the community to celebrate the aspirations of their children."
For more news from Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/spawar/.