Lego has unveiled a new series of space-themed sets. The new blocks are part of Lego’s FIRST initiative and are intended to be used in the 2018 – 2019 First Lego League challenge. First is an annual challenge event sponsored by Dean Kamen, previously known for inventing the Mall Cop Transporter Segway and for inventing drug infusion pumps (the latter is where his wealth came from). FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and has sponsored a number of robotic competitions and programs for students of all ages. Founded in 1989, the program has proven quite popular, with an estimated 350,000 children expected to participate this year from all around the globe.
Lego’s involvement with the First program starts at the elementary school level and continues into high school. Each year, the company releases specific Lego sets tied to a theme, and asks students to research a real-world program and develop solutions to address it. Last year, for example, the focus topic was Hydro Dynamics. Students were tasked with building a robot that could perform certain challenges. The image below is from the Hydro Dynamics challenge board and gives an idea of the kinds of scenarios the competition contemplates.
The new sets are Mission Moon and Into Orbit. Mission Moon is intended for children ages 6-10. The Into Orbit challenge targets older kids, ages 9-16, and has a more sophisticated assignment. Here’s how Lego phrases it: “Teams will design, build and code an autonomous Lego Mindstorms robot to perform a series of space-themed missions on a playing field. They will also research a problem they identify and design an innovative solution to that problem.”
The video below is a quick overview of the First Lego League and the program itself.
Right now, the Hydro Dynamics competition is still wrapping up, so the launch pages for the new campaign aren’t up yet. “At Lego Education, we believe the skills fostered through fun, developmental programs like those we create with FIRST will teach our children that anyone can release their potential to innovate,” Lego Education President Esben Stærk Jørgensen said in a statement. “We are excited to see the FIRST LegoLeague Jr. and FIRST Lego League projects that children around the world will create.”
Lego has a long history of sponsoring various educational programs and projects, including its Mindstorm projects with sensors that can detect touch, light, sound, and even ultrasonic waves. Software support for programmable bricks is available for both Windows and Mac computers.
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