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LEGO Robotics Champions Focused on Sustainable Energy

Contact:

Bruce Schafer, Director, OUS Industry Affairs; Office: 503-725-2915; Cell: 503-332-4666
Cathy Swider, Project Administrator, OUS; Office: 503-725-2920

PORTLAND, January 22, 2008 – The Oregon University System is pleased to announce 6 state champions of the Intel Oregon FIRST LEGO League 2007 Championship Tournaments held on January 19th-20th at Liberty High School in Hillsboro. The statewide competition brought together 113 winning teams from qualifying tournaments across the state to compete their custom-made robots in a competition focused on sustainable energy and the global “Power Puzzle.”  Oregon Robotics & Tournament Outreach Program (ORTOP) is one of the fastest growing youth programs in the state, and because of the incredibly large participation in the state tournament this year, it was extended to two days, with different teams competing on each day. Oregon boasts one of the largest LEGO Robotics programs in the nation, and an Oregon team went on to win the championship of the World Festival of the FIRST LEGO League Robotics program last year.

First place for the Intel Oregon Champion’s Award, the most prestigious award of the competition, went to two co-champions: The Brainy Bunch, a team of 5 middle school girls from Stoller Middle School in Portland, and Plastic Mini Figures a team of 7 from Meadow Park Middle School in Beaverton. This award goes to the team who is strongest in the top four categories: robot design, robot performance, the research project, and last but not least, teamwork. The second prize Champion’s Awards went to the Hobbots, a home-schooled team from Canby, and the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies, from the Village Home Education Resource Center in Beaverton. The third place championship was awarded to Roboboys, a neighborhood team from Portland, and Catlin Gabel School’s Team Echo.

Eddie Wang from the Plastic Mini Figures team says, “The most exciting thing about winning the award is not receiving a trophy built of LEGOs, but actually knowing that you are the FLL (FIRST LEGO League) state champion, or co-champion. It represents that we have worked together, problem solving our way to the top.”  Teammate Arjun Vachhani looks forward to the next step: “We will get a chance to represent Oregon and deliver our message of renewable energy and saving energy to teams all over the USA through a language we all know, LEGO robotics.”

Gary Whitney, coach of The Brainy Bunch, says “The [Intel] Oregon Champion’s Award has given the girls a very special opportunity to represent their state and motivate other young minds to dream big and change the world! I’m most proud of the confidence the girls have gained competing in FIRST LEGO League the past few years. They don’t run from problems!”

First place in the Mentor Graphics Young Team Award went to Mega LEGO Maniacs, a neighborhood team from Klamath Falls, and N er G, a youth team from Hillsboro. This award is restricted to teams made up of members 11 years old and younger who do well in all four categories, robot design, robot performance, the research project, and teamwork.  In addition, Oregon teams walked away this weekend winning many impressive category and subcategory awards made possible by Oregon industries. (See sponsor list at bottom.)

Jill Eiland, Oregon Public Affairs Manager for Intel Corporation enthusiastically congratulated the winners of the tournament for their persistence, team work, problem-solving, and leadership, and encouraged them to consider engineering education paths and careers. The Champion’s Award winners will have the opportunity to advance to the FIRST LEGO League Power Puzzle World Festival to be held in Atlanta, Georgia, an opportunity not available to all champions, or to the 2008 High Tech Kids FLL International Open to be held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this coming spring.

ORTOP offers the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) pre-engineering program to help young students begin preparing for technical careers at an early age. Oregon technology corporations and industry associations collaborate with the Oregon University System (OUS) and major youth organizations to implement the program. The teams of 9-14 year olds use off-the-shelf LEGO robotics kits to construct ingenious working robots, which complete as many “missions” as possible on a 4-foot by 8-foot playing field. The teams also present research projects, discuss research solutions with judges, and show their teamwork skills. Each year FIRST LEGO League (FLL) defines a challenge that drives team activities. In this year's Power Puzzle challenge, as visionaries and scientists, the 2007 FIRST LEGO League teams explored how the personal and civic energy choices we make impact the environment, economy, and life around the globe.

Bruce Schafer, director of Industry Affairs for the OUS, says, ”The incredible creativity and talent these kids have shown is just amazing. We are very thankful to our supporters, our hundreds of volunteers, and our generous sponsors who help to nurture their talent and interests so that they can become Oregon’s future innovators and engineers.”

For research projects, the teams audited local buildings regarding their energy usage, and developed recommendations. For example, the Brainy Bunch conducted an energy audit of the Penguinarium at the Oregon Zoo. The girls researched green energy options and proposed solutions including switching to compact fluorescent spot lights, adding solar panels to the roof, and even implementing a biogasification facility to turn animal waste at the zoo into electricity. The Plastic Mini Figures turned their attention to the classroom—but portable classrooms—investigating three measures that improve energy performance and save costs, and sharing their findings with the public, energy experts, and the owner and manufacturer of portable classrooms.

In addition to the teams’ competitive futures at the international and world tournaments, the individual students are considering their own futures. Eileen Yao of Plastic Mini Figures says, “Before, engineering and science seemed really boring. After doing LEGO Robotics, my whole perspective changed. It makes me really eager about becoming an engineer.”  Teammate William Yuan says, “I definitely want being a scientist or engineer when I grow up.” And on the more immediate future, Laura Whitney of the Brainy Bunch says: “We get to tell our Math teacher that five girls won the state tournament!”

Since its inception in 2001, ORTOP has more than quadrupled its participation. In December 2007, 377 teams and more than 2,600 students participated in 20 qualifying tournaments in Oregon and SW Washington. Each team is made up of four to ten students from 9 to 14 years old. The top 20% of these teams competed at the January 19th and 20th Intel Oregon FIRST LEGO League Championship Tournaments. For more information on the program go to: http://www.ortop.org.

ORTOP thanks its generous sponsors for this event, including Intel Oregon, the title sponsor for the event; RadiSys, Mentor Graphics, and Rockwell Collins, platinum sponsors; and Bonneville Power Administration, Catlin Gabel, Fred Meyer, PGE Foundation, Hillsboro School District, and Pacific Power Foundation, gold sponsors.


Oregon University System comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu

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