LEGO robots offer answers

While some kids were home watching SpongeBob on Saturday morning TV, about 300 youngsters ages 9 to 14 were using small robots to test their knowledge of nanotechnology at Canton Country Day School.

The eighth FIRST LEGO League Nano Quest Challenge, which involved 18 teams of kids from across northeastern Ohio, culminated an eight-week project involving research, design and programming to compete in the regional tournament. The winner will participate in the FLL World Festival in Atlanta in April. Children from 34 nations will eventually compete on an international level.

Lego Nanoquest Challenge

Lego Nanoquest Challenge

“Every FIRST LEGO League challenge helps students discover how imagination and creativity combined with science and technology can solve real-world problems. This year’s focus on nanotechnology introduces them to a new frontier of science and technology,” said Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

The students used custom-built robots in timed competitions aimed at showing teamwork, troubleshooting and problem solving, said Paul Monks of the school at 3000 Demington Ave. NW.

“It’s very complex, but it’s fun to program,” said Nicholas Greene of Beachwood, who attended the competition last year. Teammate Joshua Cheston, who also attended last year, said, “the tasks and obstacles are a little different, but we chose a different design. That design worked.”

The competition was the fourth for Cathi Friddle, a home-schooled 15-year-old from Canton.

“I love it,” she said. “You can impress (the crowd), and you learn a boatload. The big thing is teamwork. And this year, we learned a lot about nanotechnology. We went to (Ohio University) and met with some of the professors.”

Beside her, Bailey DuBois, 13, also a home-schooled Canton resident, was competing for another team. It was DuBois’ third year.

“I like the competition,” DeBois said. “The presentations are fun.”

Presenting their work to the judges and a crowd was only one aspect on which they were judged.

The “missions” this year included manipulating individual atoms, testing stain-resistant clothing and operating a space elevator on a small platform with small robotic toys.

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