Heads together for robot challenge

MATT STEWART
Last updated 11:45 05/11/2012
Peri Shaw and David Laing-Maguire
ROSS GIBLIN/Fairfax NZ

IF YOU BUILD IT... Peri Shaw, 8, and David Laing-Maguire, 10, from Hataitai School's Cubic Cats team, compete in the Lego Robotics Challenge at Victoria University.

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Android precision, mechanical skills, tech savvy, teamwork and problem solving are all part of the game in the Lego Robotics Challenge.

Yesterday three Wellington teams competed at Victoria University in the regional heat of the global challenge.

Hoping to spur on the scientists, inventors and engineers of the future the event is part of an international programme for 8 to 14 year olds, encouraging them to connect imagination and creativity with science and technology to solve real-world problems.

The first challenge is to design a robot that can tackle an obstacle course, the second to research a topic then pose a problem and find a solution.

This year the six-strong teams were asked to explore ageing and how it affects an older person's ability to keep up a healthy lifestyle - getting around, staying in touch with friends and family and keeping fit.

Khandallah team Flaming Nachos - who double as a football squad - were the overall winners, competing against two Hataitai School teams, second place getters 6 Boys in Black and core values winners the Cubic Cats.

Flaming Nachos coach Hadley Fierlinger describes the Lego League as a ''sport for the mind'' and said emphasis on science and technology was often missing in the school curriculum.

After researching the issue the team devised a senior solution - a simplified iPhone communication device worn on the wrist that reminds the elderly to take medication and other important items on the daily agenda.

The judges said the Flaming Nachos quickly developed a strategy to complete the missions ''and worked out which tasks were both easy and gave good points''.

''They researched chassis design and improved upon what they found.''

Cubic Cats member David Laing-Maguire, who hopes one day to be an architect or designer, said the competition was a great lesson in co-operation, with all the teams working well both individually and collaboratively.

The 10-year-old's father and Cubic Cats coach David Laing said the competition presented an alternative to traditional team sports and arts and crafts.

''For brainy and nerdy kids there's less opportunity for team activities - this gives them a chance to shine in the spotlight,'' Mr Laing said.

Allowing smart children early exposure to areas like problem solving and basic computer programming would also have a future economic spinoff as the talented youngsters entered the workforce.

Both Flaming Nachos and 6 Boys in Black qualified for the New Zealand First Lego League Championship held at ACG Strathallan College in Auckland on November 24.

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- The Dominion Post

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