There is no question that every day we are learning more about what robots can do. The line is getting so blurred between AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning. We are seeing the next generation of robots being created that are faster and more efficient and smarter than any of us probably ever imagined just a few short years ago. These robots are so sophisticated they are performing tasks in hospitals, on the plant floor, and even in schools. Perhaps even more exciting is how early our next generation of students are creating these sophisticated machines. No posts found.

Recently, Penelope, a LEGO EV3 robot, was programmed, queued, and ready to begin her missions along the Trash Trek playing field. Her job? To score as many points possible by grabbing compost piles, repurposing car parts, demolishing and salvaging buildings, and collecting material from a recycle center—all in 2.5 minutes of breath holding, nail biting, fear producing expectations.  

For the Tech Crew, a group of four 8th grade students from Lakeville, Minn., the Minnesota State Championship games were the final stop in their three-year journey with the FIRST LEGO League, an international robotics program that includes more than 200,000 kids in 63 countries that introduces children ages 9 to 14 to science and technology. 

Teams collaborate to build and program an autonomous robot to score points on a thematic playing surface and create an innovative solution to a problem correlated to the yearly theme, all while guided by the FLL Core Values, which are teamwork, friendly competition, gracious professionalism, and having fun.

In addition to learning how to build, program, and adjust Penelope to various playing conditions, Tech Crew developed a simple app-based solution to connect people with their local community compost sites for an inexpensive, less messy alternative to home composting or purchasing expensive compost from garden supply stores. 

During their amazing competition, Tech Crew brought home several robot design awards, a 1st place Research Project award (community composting) and a 1st place Core Values award (working together). The coach admits, “I know almost nothing about programing, but I do know that when you give kids the opportunity to shine—they will.”

If we help our children with the nuances of programming we will continue to see even more data processing algorithms that will result in more creative solutions that we never even imagined via the rapidly changing IoT (Internet of Things). Join me in congratulating these amazing young kids.