FIRST LEGO League gearing up

Posted: Monday, September 06, 2010

The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, LEGO League robotics program is gearing up to kick off for the year.

Students and adults who are curious about the program are invited to attend a free kickoff party from 6-8 p.m. on Wednesday, September 8 at Juneau Douglas High School.

The program, coordinated by the Juneau Economic Development Council's Springboard Program, began four years ago with Rebecca Parks, Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education specialist with the JEDC.

Parks had worked with the league in New York, while a teacher at Juneau School District had members of the English Language Learners' program already working on the LEGO program. Parks talked to a contact with the state division of FIRST LEGO and was talked into going to the World Festival in Atlanta that year.

"It got me inspired to get it going in Southeast," she said.

That first year, 15 rookie teams across Southeast fired up.

This year there are 16 teams registered across Southeast. Parks said most schools budget funds for the program. For those that don't, it costs $200 to form a team, $65 for a field set and $365 for a robotics kit.

This year's theme is "Body Forward."

"Every year there is a real-world theme," Parks explained. "Last year, all the projects were about transportation. This year it's about bioengineering."

She said some models feature a broken bone, an artery with a stent or even a brain.

"Kids have to do a research project," she said. "They have to identify a problem relating to bioengineering or health care and come up with their own solution. We're excited because we can get the hospital involved."

Parks said Bartlett Regional Hospital has already donated supplies and they'll get a chance to talk with medical staff, including a physical therapist, and work with radiology.

"There are so many possibilities for what the kids can be learning," Parks said. "That's the great thing about the theme changing each year."

Wednesday's event gives families a chance to check out the program, as well as community members for event support.

Participants can practice with hands-on activities, find out how to form a team, find out about coaching clinics and look at the new season's tournament course.

FIRST programs in Alaska are funded through JEDC's SpringBoard program by the US Department of Defense, the National Defense Education Program, and BP.

FIRST was founded by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 to inspire youth interest and participation in science and technology.

For more information on the JEDC SpringBoard program and FIRST activities contact Rebecca Parks at 523-2334. To find out more information on tournaments or other FIRST information go to

• Contact Sarah Day at 523-2279 or at

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