Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Independent Science Programs Expand

Around 350 New Mexico kids will invade the Albuquerque convention center this weekend to build robots from Lego bricks. Here’s what happening, courtesy of the First Lego League website (www.usfirst.org)
Children ages 6 to 9 get to:
• Design and build a challenge-related model using Lego components.
• Create a Show-Me poster and practice presentation skills.
• Explore challenges facing today’s scientists.
• Discover real-world math and science.
Children ages 9 to 14 get to:
• Strategize, design, build, program, and test a robot using Lego Mindstorms technology Create innovative solutions for challenges facing today’s scientists as part of their research project.
• Apply real-world math and science concepts.
• Develop employment and life skills including critical thinking, time management, collaboration, and communication while becoming more self confident.
The activity is built around what First Lego jargon calls “a challenge.” The “missions” include “bone repair, rapid blood screening, bionic eyes, nerve mapping, object control through thought, teams will have to program their Lego Mindstorms robots to explore the growing questions around how to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body’s potential.”
The kids’ activity also is supposed to result in a bunch of touchy-feely stuff I won’t bore you with. But the point is we have New Mexico children doing real science, activity critical to the future of the state and the nation.
Another expanding science program—now up to 30 schools—is the Santa Fe Institute’s Project GUTS: Growing Up Thinking Scientifically. See the 2009 SFI Bulletin (http://www.santafe.edu/bulletin.html).
The GEAR-Tech-21 (Geospatial and Robotics Technologies for the 21st century) (http:/www.geartech21.org) program from the University of Nebraska extension service in Lincoln appeared in New Mexico last year. GEAR-Tech is linked to the First Lego League.

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