Bigger, Bigger, Bigger for West Virginia Robotics

The annual West Virginia FIRST LEGO tournament sponsored by the Center for Educational Technologies grew again in 2011, involving more people in the Mountain State than ever before. More than 1,100 participants, judges, and family members descended on Ripley High School in December for the competition funded by the West Virginia NASA Space Grant Consortium.

Dr. Meri Cummings of the Center for Educational Technologies has run the tournament for the last seven years, a massive undertaking that involves organizing resources throughout the state and elsewhere to make the tournament the success it is. The 36 teams participating in 2011 were the most ever, in fact. Her efforts through the years have helped to grow the tournament from a small gathering of a few teams into the mammoth event it has become.

Growing the tournament involves a lot of grassroots work throughout the year. Cummings presented local workshops throughout 2011 for adult leaders to help them understand what LEGO robotics is about. In addition, nearly 30 girls participated in the Girls as Robotics Engineers workshop in March. The workshop invited girls in grades 3-8 to work with robots just as NASA scientists do. The event was held as part of NASA's effort to support Women's History Month. Cummings works with NASA Education in using robotics to help spur interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Another new robotics experience this year was the WaterBotics workshop held for a week in August at the Center for Educational Technologies. Campers used the LEGO NXT brick as a controller as they waterproofed motors, built their own connectors, and added propellers to perform aquatic missions.
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