Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, No. 1, January 20, 2012
   
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lego league

Middle school teams from around the Capital Region competed in the FIRST LEGO® League Regional Qualifying Tournament on campus. In the Food Factor Challenge, students explored the topic of food safety and examined the possible points of contamination that food encounters. Photos by Caroline Pitner

 
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FIRST LEGO® League Robotics Tournament Held on Campus in December

When it comes to addressing food safety, what ideas can young students offer? Just ask the 14 middle school teams from around the Capital Region that competed in the FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) Regional Qualifying Tournament at Rensselaer on Dec. 10. More than 120 students worked together to use their imagination and creativity in combination with science and technology to develop ways to make food safer to eat. The event was made possible through a partnership between Rensselaer and Time Warner Cable, which has co-sponsored the event for the last two years.

“Food safety is an excellent theme for students to address and connect with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines,” said Paul Schoch, associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering and director of the Center for Initiatives in Pre-College Education (CIPCE), which works with area teachers and students to promote the use of robotics in the classroom.

“We eat food every day, and students love learning about something that is a part of their life,” Schoch added. “Students from the Capital Region and around the world were tasked with researching a real-world scientific issue, which also serves to show students how scientists, engineers, government agencies, and food producers work together to find solutions.

In the Food Factor Challenge, nearly 200,000 middle and high school students from 55 countries explored the topic of food safety and examined the possible points of contamination that food encounters—including exposure to insects and creatures, unsterile processing and transportation, and unsanitary preparation and storage—then looked for ways to prevent or combat these contaminants. In Food Factor, robots were tasked with the safe transportation and preparation of food, exploring pest control, food temperatures, and pollution as they navigated from the various starting points of our food to the place where it is consumed.

“Time Warner Cable is thrilled to partner with RPI to present the FIRST LEGO® League Qualifying Tournament and sponsor three teams,” said Jennifer Reed Holick, communications manager for Time Warner Cable. “Through our Connect a Million Minds Initiative, Time Warner Cable is committed to providing exciting, hands-on opportunities for kids to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math. Tournaments like this allow students to see how science and technology are fun, while gaining the skills they need to become the problem solvers of tomorrow.”

The teams are from around the Capital Region and New York state. The tournament was supported by more than 50 volunteers, including Rensselaer students, faculty, and staff, along with 24 students from area high school robotics teams.

FLL is a partnership between the LEGO® Group and FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), which was founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen to motivate young people to pursue careers in science, technology, and engineering.

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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 6, Number 1, January 20, 2012
©2012 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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