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19 November, 2018 - 17:19 By Kate Sweeney

Qualcomm steps up backing for schools robotic challenge

US technology giant Qualcomm along with Cambridge organisers and participants have hailed the response from East Anglian schoolchildren for a global robotics challenge designed to woo more youngsters to take up STEM subjects and follow relevant careers.

Almost 100 youngsters from schools across the region attended a FIRST® LEGO® League preview event at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, in preparation for the Cambridge regional tournament in January. 

Two workshop sessions were held for participating teams to provide them with the opportunity to see the robots in action and discover the various challenges of the day.

FIRST® LEGO® League is a global education initiative for students aged between nine and 16 where teams of up to 10 complete a series of robotics-themed challenges and build and programme an autonomous robot, using a LEGO® Mindstorms® kit. 

Winners of the Cambridge regional tournament in the New Year will be given the opportunity to progress to the UK and Ireland final in February and then on to one of three international events, including the World Festival in Detroit, Michigan from April 24-27.

During the preview event, representatives from Conscious Communications and the Department of Engineering explained more about the FIRST® LEGO® League Cambridge tournament. 

Guided by experts in the engineering industry, teachers, students and parents were able to get hands on with the challenge kits, testing their robots on the challenge mats.

Maria Kettle, Outreach officer for the Department of Engineering said: “FIRST® LEGO® League aims to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals and it is a fantastic way to develop young people’s skills in robotics and coding. 

“We felt it was important to run this preview event for students to get a feel for the challenge day, especially for the 13 schools which are competing for the first time. We look forward to welcoming back the teams for the main event in January!”

FIRST® LEGO® League is supported globally by Qualcomm Technologies International and its affiliates with sponsorship that helps to fund participation; on a local level, this includes the provision of free LEGO® kits to eight sponsored teams in the county of Cambridgeshire.  

Neil Matthews, Computer Science teacher, from Qualcomm-sponsored North Cambridge Academy, said: “The FIRST® LEGO® League is a great opportunity for our students to develop skills outside of, but complementary to, the national curriculum and the work we have done so far has really captured the imagination of our students – from building the LEGO® field mats and programming the robot, to brainstorming ideas for the project assignment. 

“Attending the preview event at the Department of Engineering has been enormously valuable for our team – as well as gaining a greater understanding of the logistics of the day, and which challenges we need to work on more before the tournament, the students are now raring to go in January.”

The Cambridge regional tournament will take place at the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering on Tuesday 15 January 2019. During the Cambridge tournament, Qualcomm Technologies International, will bring a local team (based in Cambridge) to lend its engineering expertise, mentoring the teams of young people.

• The organisers are currently recruiting local science and technology enthusiasts to judge the regional heat. For more information on judging opportunities please contact: joanna.colley [at] consciouscommunications.com

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