By Andricka Thomas, ATECJanuary 24, 2015
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Maryland (January 24, 2015) - Team Aberdeen Proving Ground partnered with the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and 'For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,' known as FIRST, hosted the 2014 FIRST Lego League robotics competition for students age 9-14, Saturday, January 24 at U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command headquarters at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland.
"You [student participants] have all worked hard over the last few months getting ready for today's event," said Maj. Gen. Peter D. Utley, commander of the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command. "Today, you will be assessed on your core values, the challenge, special projects and enthusiasm," he said as he kicked off this year's event.
Also present in support of the event were senior leaders, Gary Martin, deputy to the commanding general of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command; Command Sgt. Maj. Ronald Orosz, ATEC; and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Austin, ATEC Army Evaluation Center.
Founded in 1989, FIRST is devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics through a forum that allows for fun, project-based learning, competition and team building among students.
During his address, Utley offered examples of real-world application technology and robotics plays in the Army.
"In the last 13 years of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Soldiers have used robots as a way to keep our Soldiers safe whenever possible and to accomplish the mission. The safety of our Soldiers is a top priority, and technology allows us to enhance and improve safety through devices, like robots," said Utley. "The types of projects you will be working on today are similar to the work our scientists and engineers conduct for the Army each day."
FIRST founder Dean Kamen, describes the event's purpose by emphasizing that "it's [FLL] not about building robots; it's about robots building people."
During the event, student teams are given Lego Mindstorm robotics kits and asked are asked to design, build and program robots; apply real-world math and science concepts; research challenges facing today's scientists; learn critical thinking, team-building and presentation skills; and participate in tournaments and celebrations.
"This event is truly a great experience for young minds," said Christina Bryant, ATEC Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, STEM, outreach coordinator. "The activities are interactive; students are taught FIRST core values of teamwork; being effective and efficient; the joy of being inspired; the value of discovery; having team spirit; and being inclusive, respectful and cooperative when working with others."
There are five competitive competitions based on age which include the FIRST Place for ages six to adult; the Junior FIRST Lego League for students from six to nine years of age; FIRST Lego League for students nine to 14 years old; the FIRST Tech Challenge for high school students; and the FIRST Robotics Competition for high school students.
Volunteers representing various organizations from Team APG spent the day facilitating the event, doing everything from providing transportation, set-up, clean-up, gate check-in, to scoring and time keeping, team runners, referees, judges, registration, among a host of other roles.
"I would like to thank all the volunteers who are here today to help make this event a reality," said Utley. "I would also like to thank the coaches and parents for your support of America's future -- our youth. Your commitment and dedication to these young people speaks volumes about you. Your personal involvement makes all the difference and will benefit these competitors in their future endeavors and careers."
Chris Doolittle, of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command Logistics and Readiness Center, served as emcee for the second year. "The day was rewarding and you get to meet a lot of kids who are excited about STEM. If you like controlled chaos, this is your event! Join us next year!" said Doolittle.
To learn more about the program, visit http://www.mdfirst.org.