Belfast Telegraph

St Patrick’s robotic skills lead them to national final

by Fiona Rutherford

A group of students from St Patrick’s Bearnageeha are to represent Northern Ireland in a biomedical engineering competition.

The north Belfast school won the 2010 First Lego League (FLL) Northern Ireland finals by designing, building and programming a Lego robot to complete specific tasks relating to the Body Forward challenge theme hosted by W5.

St Patrick’s Bearnageeha now advance to represent Belfast at the FLL UK and Ireland National Final at Loughborough University on January 22 when they will compete for the opportunity to represent the UK at the World Festival in St Louis, America at the end of April.

This year’s global challenge requires teams of 9 to 16 year-old children to research and present their own creative solutions to one of today’s most relevant topics - how engineering mixes with traditional biological and medical sciences to advance healthcare.

With missions including bone repair, rapid blood screening, bionic eyes, nerve mapping, object control through thought, teams programmed their Lego Mindstorms robots to explore the growing questions around how to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximise the body’s potential, with the intended purpose of leading happier and healthier lives.

The teams demonstrated an impressive level of knowledge and experience across the four assessment areas (project presentation, robot performance, technical design, and teamwork) to walk away with the highest accolade, the Champion’s Award.

Dean Kamen, FIRST founder, said: “With medical issues impacting each and every one of us in our lifetime, we will need a new generation of innovators to build on the miracles of modern medicine and ensure future advances in healthcare, for us and for themselves. This year’s focus on Biomedical Engineering introduces these young scientists to an exciting field that is virtually exploding with possibilities.”

The competition sees children work alongside adult mentors to design, build, and program autonomous robots and create an innovative solution to a problem as part of their research project. After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments.

“This initiative helps develop problem solving skills and positive attitudes to STEM subjects in young people, highlighting how relevant these subjects actually are in everyday life” said Aideen Johnson of W5.

Currently in its 12th year, FFL anticipates its biggest season ever, with more than 17,000 teams competing in qualifying tournaments in over 50 countries.

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