When I saw that a local high school was hosting a robotics competition, I immediately thought this would be a great New Experience for all of us. As an educator, I know how important STEM activities are. (That’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics for those of you not down with the lingo of our children’s generation.) Our children will need to be proficient in STEM if they want to compete in the global market as adults. It is imperative that they become comfortable with these activities at a young age.
But that is not why I took the kids to the competition. I took them because I want them to see that STEM activities are FUN. (That’s the F word to many people in education these days.) We don’t need testing or drill-and-kill activities for STEM. Robotics competitions are a fabulous educational activity for kids.
We had no idea what to expect from this competition. When we walked in, we saw two tables set up with Lego creations. The difference between these creations and the ones my kids create at home is that these were robotic. The participants programmed them to move in certain ways.
There was little information available, so we talked to some of the participants who were waiting for their turn. We were also able to get a close look at the projects they created. This competition was a First Lego League tournament. The league posed a problem about a natural disaster and each team had to create a solution to prepare or rebuild from the disaster.
Luke and Leah enjoyed watching the little Lego robots move when their owners clicked a button on their laptops. I don’t think my kids really understood all the work that went into the programming because they only saw the end result.
We walked over to the competition, but there was no one who was available to explain what was going on. It was hard for us to understand the points system and the competition. But it was easy for us to see the passion the middle school teams had for their projects. They were dancing, screaming, and jumping up and down as their robots competed. It had all the excitement of a sporting event.
We only stayed about 45 minutes, but I think this New Experience was well worth it for the kids. They saw that STEM could be fun. They saw that people value competitions of the mind. But, most importantly, they came home and immediately got to work on a new Lego creation!