ECCI Sponsors Scottish Regional Final of the First Lego League

12 January 2014

ECCI was one of the sponsors of the Scottish Regional 2013 – 14 Final of the First Lego League this year - back by popular demand after a three year hiatus.

Ron McMurtrie, IET Scotland Schools Liaison Officer was at the scene:

"There was a real buzz about the University of Edinburgh Informatics even teams assisted by their teachers and mentors, with parents and families in support, were making final adjustments to their Lego Mindstorm robots, before pitting against each other in the opening heats of the knockout competition.

Students were making final adjustments to their Lego Mindstorm robots

The robots had been pre-programmed to perform a selected range of challenges on a previously designated table layout reflecting the day’s theme “Nature’s Fury”. Challenges associated damage a storm or earthquake can cause to buildings, power supplies, roads and other essential supplies or challenges reflecting the distribution of aid to a disaster struck area. The robot could knock over tree branches, relocates a building, release a plane to travel down a wire to land on to a runway, move an ambulance to meet the plane on the runway or raise a sign announcing area to be evacuated. Scores for the challenges were either based on “Yes” or “No” or points awarded for the level of success a challenge achieved such as the coloured area of the runway the plane reached.  Or the number of members of a rescued family that had been moved to an area on the table where bottled water was available. If the Tsunami had be one of the challenges chosen, did all three did all three waves reach the designated spot?
Soon the time came to get the first heat of the day started under the watchful eye of the judges with their score sheets at the ready. To a resounding chorus of “Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Lego!”  from the expectant spectators, two teams entered the fray on side by side tables on the whistle starting the clock counting down two minutes, thirty second in which the robots had to perform the tasks previously selected. Teams worked with great urgency, resetting their robot’s programme at the end of each task. Or on occasion having to rescue their robot when things did not quite go as programmed.
After the whistle signalling time’s up, there was the wait for the judges to finalise the scores for each team with the results being posted on a big screen. Joy for some less so for others. Each of the seven teams’ robots participated in three rounds with the best score contributing to their Robot Game ranking.
While the three rounds were under way, other judges were chatting to each team about their robot’s construction.  Was the construction sound and not fault prone? How efficient was the robot? How was the quality of the robot’s programme and had it been compiled to maximise efficiency of operation? How well did the robot navigate using mechanical feedback and that from sensors? And crucially did the team appreciate the importance of testing after each design change, structural or progamme, to continuously improve the robot’s operating ability.
The Regional event’s theme “Nature’s Fury” was much more to the fore in the presentation each team had to make looking at natural disasters, their implications and propose ways in which their effects could be mitigated. Projects included the serious consequences of flooding in India, effective temporary shelter in an earthquake zone such as San Francisco, and landsides on the A83 Rest and Be Thankful road such that the road to remained open. Perhaps the most imaginative solution to a natural disaster was constructing a wall round a volcano to channel the molten lava into the sea demonstrated by a beautifully constructed model of a volcano and surrounding wall. How did the teams select their particular problem and how was information gained to enable potential solutions to be developed?  Was this a team effort? Would it improve the quality of life for those affected and was the proposed solution financially viable?  Was the presentation effective in getting over a team’s understanding and ideas?
Into the afternoon session two teams Leith Primary School and the Calderwood Clan from Calderwood Primary School fought out the final of the knockout competition in front of the audience of their helpers and supporters. “Five, Four, Three, Two, One. Lego!” saw two robots trying to maximise the score through the pre-programmed choice of tasks with each team’s members striving to ensure a successful result in 2.5 minutes.  After an anxious few minutes the scores were posted showing the Calderwood Clan were the winners and presented with a trophy.
Then while each team member was being presented with a medal, the judges were is session to decide the final overall outcome, focusing on how teams had worked together, respecting each other, sharing tasks and being prepared consider each team members ideas.
The much-awaited announcement saw the all-girls Team Robot from St Kertigen’s Academy, declared runner-ups, with their project being assessed as the best of the day. The expectant hush gave way to great cheers with The Calderwood Clan (pictured) being announced winners of the Scottish Regional FLL event and the British Computer Society prize to help fund their trip to the National FLL Final in Loughborough.
To those teams, Team Belmont, JGHS, Eastwood High School and Artronix well done for being worthy competitors. Perhaps next year there will be a more successful outcome. Though the word is that there could well be a larger numbers of teams competing to reach the UK National Final in 2015.

More photos from the day: