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Six Champaign County teams bound for Lego tournament state finals

Jan Dennis, Business & Law Editor


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six teams of Champaign County elementary and middle school students will compete Saturday (Jan. 19) in the state finals of the FIRST LEGO League’s worldwide tournament.

Sixty-four teams from across Illinois, each with up to 10 students ages 9 to 14, will compete in the daylong finals in Arlington Heights. The winner will advance to the league’s World Festival April 17-19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

The contest matches computer-programmed robots built from plastic LEGO pieces that attempt a series of tasks related to alternative energy, the theme of this year’s competition. Teams are judged on how many tasks, such as placing a solar panel on a house or harvesting corn to make ethanol, their robot can complete in 2 ½ minutes.

Another phase of the competition required teams to complete an on-site energy audit of a building, then develop efficiency plans and make presentations on their findings.

The Champaign County teams advanced from a regional contest sponsored by the University of Illinois colleges of business and engineering that drew 24 teams from 15 schools. Three teams from Next Generation School in Champaign will compete in the state finals, along with a team from Stratton School in Champaign and independent teams from Mahomet and Urbana.

U. of I. business administration professor Rajshree Agarwal and Minosca
Alcantara, associate director of Women in Engineering on the Urbana campus, coordinated the regional competition.

Agarwal says the College of Business joined the university’s engineering school as a sponsor of the regional tournament this year because the annual competition also provides research, problem-solving and teamwork training that are critical in business careers.

“What these kids are getting out of it are very important skills about how you take an invention from an idea to creating something that can potentially be commercialized or create value in society,” Agarwal said. “In addition to the fun they clearly have, it teaches them life skills that relate to how they are going to succeed in both their personal and professional life.”

Avijit Ghosh, the U. of I.’s vice president of technology and economic development and former dean of the College of Business, will deliver the keynote address during Saturday’s state finals.

Editor’s note (not for publication): For more information or results of Saturday’s competition, contact Rajshree Agarwal at 217-898-8018.