LEGO Robotics Thrive in Mountain State

When you hear something was the biggest and best ever, you might be skeptical. But sometimes the hype is true. That's certainly the case for the 2010 West Virginia FIRST LEGO League robotics tournament held in December for the sixth year in a row on the Wheeling Jesuit University campus and hosted by the Center for Educational Technologies. In simple terms more teams were entered in this annual event than ever before, and more youth from more places across the Mountain State participated. In fact, every corner of this states' multi-angled borders participated. The Eastern Panhandle, the Northern Panhandle, Morgantown, Charleston, Huntington, the far south near Virginia—all had teams make the trek to Wheeling. And with them came parents and supporters. Dr. Meri Cummings, lab manager and science resource teacher at the Center for Educational Technologies, said that this year's event was certainly the most successful of all the tournaments, and she has served as tournament director for the last six years, growing it from a small get-together of a few teams to a statewide monster.

Cummings' efforts deserve much of the credit for incubating the tournament. Through funding from the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium, she holds workshops on LEGO robotics for teachers and youth group leaders and spreads the word on robotics. She also hosted two hands-on sessions at the annual West Virginia Science Teachers Association conference, held this year in Wheeling. She also hosts a very successful weeklong summer day camp each June that focuses on robotics and fitness, with 2010 marking the camp's fourth year.

Her efforts have been noticed by NASA too. In 2011 Cummings will lead NASA Education's efforts at using robotics to help spur interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
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