As the letter says, I have been recently appointed as a judge for our local LEGO robot competition league! It is something like the Integrated Design Project that we had at Cambridge, where students worked together to build a robot to accomplish a certain task within a certain time frame. However, these are students between the ages of 9-16 and have got LEGO kits to play with.
I like working with kids – done about a dozen years of teaching. I also like working with robotic kits like the LEGO Mindstorm kits. Actually, I am contemplating getting a set for my nephew in the future – the one who is showing signs of being a natural engineer. The whole shebang costs about RM5,000 and it would be a good investment if it helps build interest in engineering.
At Cambridge, the students worked in teams, with different people tackling different aspects of the competition. The mechanical people would work on the chasis and try to solve some of the tasks using mechanical means. The electronics people would design and build circuits to control actuators and sensors while the software people would end up writing the control system that ends up running the robot. I would expect the school teams here to do something similar, though probably at a lesser scale.
Our organisation had at first wanted to sponsor a local school but we changed our minds after considering the amount of resources we would have to devote not only from a monetary stand point but also from the amount of effort we would have to put in if we wanted the team carrying our logo to win. I had at first volunteered to be a mentor but since it did not materialise, I would have to be satisfied with being a judge instead.
Anyway, the competition runs over three days and the last day would be the most exciting, with robots conquering the central atrium floor at our National Science Centre. I do believe that it is open to the public and lots of noise will be expected with schools cheering on their teams. I am hoping to be plesantly surprised by the ingenuity in the robots.