STEM

Our FIRST LEGO League Jr Journey – Part one

January 4, 2020

During my time volunteering with the Peterborough STEM festival, I was introduced to the FIRST LEGO League Jr. – a STEM programme for 6-9 year olds that encourages children to investigate a real-world theme, develop teamwork and programming skills – and have fun.
FIRST® LEGO® League Jr. is one of three ‘leagues’ that have been put together by LEGO and FIRST (a global robotics company preparing young people for the future).
The three leagues are

  • FIRST® LEGO® League Discover (aimed at 4-6-year-olds),
  • FIRST® LEGO® League Explore (aimed at 6-9-year-olds)
  • FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge (aimed at 9-16-year-olds)

The aim is to introduce kids to STEM and life skills concepts in a non-competitive, hands-on, robotics-based programme.
Each year, there is a new and exciting challenge to ignite creativity and help children enjoy learning STEM subjects. 
Last years theme was Mission Moon. As an organiser for Peterborough STEM Festival, and an expo host, I was completely blown away by the work and skills that the teams were able to produce at such a young age and I was really inspired to enter a team myself this year.

This season’s challenge – Boomtown Build.

The theme for this year’s challenge is Boomtown Build

What if you could build a better world? Where would you begin? More than ever, we must come together to innovate and solve problems. In FIRST, you are part of a thriving community brimming with inspiration, creativity, and hope for a stronger, more sustainable future—one that’s built better together.

Taken from the IET website
Our LEGO Crane, built using the WeDo 2.0 kit

Entering a FIRST LEGO League Jr team

To start a team, you will first need:

  • A team coach and up to six 6-9-year-olds
  • Entry fee £37.50 +vat (£45)
  • A LEGO WeDo 2.0 kit (cost approx £130 if you don’t have access to one)

This year, our entry cost has been kindly sponsored by Gutter Solutions LTD: Guttering – Cleaned, Repaired or Replaced

Guttering Solutions Ltd is based in Cambridgeshire and undertakes cleaning and repairing or of gutters, fascias and soffits and conservatory roofs. They also install gutters, fascias and soffits too. Their sponsorship means that we are able to afford to enter our team in its first-ever FIRST LEGO League Jr Expo – so do check them out if you need anything doing. 

What you’ll find when you first open the WeDo software…

To put our team together, I put a call out on my Facebook page to see if any of my friends with the right age kids would be interested in taking part. There were plenty of responses and I was a bit worried that I’d have too many but it sorted itself out and we now have a full team – most of whom are in Dexter’s class at school.

Next, you’ll need to find out where and when your nearest expo is, make sure you give your self enough time to work on your project (ideally 6-12 sessions) and come up with a team name. Once you have your name and the entry fee, you can get your team registered here.

Our first meet up.

So now that I’ve given you an idea of what its all about, let me tell you about our first meet.
Liam took the girls out for the afternoon so that Dexter and I could invite the team over.

Our first team meeting.

Now, as we hadn’t actually registered the team at this point, we spent the time getting to know the WeDo kit and working out how to use it.
You’ll need to download the LEGO WeDo software before you can start.
Select the classroom projects and pick something to create. The instructions read the same as they do in any LEGO manual so they’re really straightforward. Once you’ve built your model, you then connect the WeDo to your device and you’ll be shown how to code it to make it work.

The LEGO WeDo kit uses a simple drag and drop coding blocks to program the models. I only had to show the team very briefly what to do and they were off on their own, choosing what models to build and coding them between themselves.

Once they’d got the hang of it, we wrapped up the session by settling on a team name. After a few suggestions and a round of voting, we settled on…

BOOMTOWN RATS

So with our name decided, and our fee’s covered, we entered our first team.
You can check out our first official session here in the post, Welcome to Boomtown – or have a look at the IET website for some more information.

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