Jr. FIRST LEGO League to be held Dec. 9


Dr. Malini Natarajarathinam, associate professor in the Department of Engineering Technology and Industrial Distribution at Texas A&M University, first became interested in FIRST LEGO League (FLL) while attending the American Society for Engineering Education conference in June.

Dr. Woodie C. Flowers, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was being honored for his work with the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) program. Natarajarathinam had never heard of the program and decided to do a little more research.

FLL (for ages 9 through 13) and Jr. FLL (for ages 6 through 9) allows children to use their imaginations to explore the wonders of science and technology. The program uses real-world scientific concepts that teams must explore through research, teamwork, construction and imagination.

Natarajarathinam, a mother of two small children, was surprised to learn there were no FLL teams established in the Bryan-College Station area and she wanted to see the program blossom in the Brazos Valley. To see if there would be any interest in the community, she hosted an informational meeting in a room that would hold 40 people. More than 200 people showed up to the August event.

“It was chaos, but it was good chaos,” she said. “We found out that there are people interested in doing this.”

Just a few months later, the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M is preparing to host its first Jr. FLL Expo on Dec. 9. There will be nine teams participating in this event.

At the FLL level, 17 teams have been established, and they will be competing in the Central Texas FLL Qualifiers on Dec. 5 and Dec. 12 in Austin, Texas. The Women in Engineering program in the Look College has been instrumental in planning the expo by recruiting volunteers and recruiters.

Natarajarathinam would like to eventually see FLL become a part of the curriculum at local schools. The program was not solely designed for classrooms, however, and teams can be established outside of a classroom setting.  FLL teams can have from two to 10 students. Jr. FLL can have two to six students, and one adult coach. The teams can be associated with any pre-existing club or organization, homeschool group or just be a group of friends who want to have fun with robots, technology or science.

Natarajarathinam praised the program’s abilities to teach children how to communicate and work as a team.

“Participation in Jr. FLL and FLL provides kids an opportunity to learn many critical skills (creating, designing, researching, collaborating) without even knowing,” Natarajarathinam said.

The Jr. FLL Expo will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Dec. 9 in room 112 Thompson Hall. Parking is available at the Northside Parking Garage of Lot 51 pay-by-space.

For more information, visit here. To join the listserv, email Natarajarathinam at TAMU-FIRST@tamu.edu.