ITS Berkeley, FLOW Lab Host First LEGO League Championship

January 29, 2019

With a rousing round of “Go Bears!” led by College of Engineering Dean Tsu-Jae King Liu, about 40 teams of elementary and middle school students, ages 9-14, took over the Pauley Ballroom in the MLK Student Union Building to put months of planning and design into practice at the Northern California FIRST LEGO League Championship Jan. 19, 2019.

This year’s theme, Into Orbit, transported teams into space, where they learned to explore, challenge and innovate with a research project, core values and built an autonomous robot to perform tasks on the moon. As an institution that embraces research, innovation, core values and AI, UC Berkeley served as a fun backdrop for the competiton — where many ITS Berkeley and Engineering faculty and staff helped out and attended the event. In addition to pariciaption, ITS Berkeley and the FLOW project of the Mobile Sensing Lab helped sponsor and organize the event, as well as fostering outreach to the elementary and middle school communites.

A fan of Legos herself, Dean King Liu helped welcome over 300 students and their coaches and parents to the UC Berkeley campus, and launched the competition, after teaching potentially prospective students a round of “Go Bears!” to energize and motivate the crowd.

“It is so amazing to see what you all have accomplished and the steps you have taken to get there,” says King Liu. “This is engineering, solving problems.”

Part of their accomplishments include building and programming an autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS to solve a set of missions (activities related to space exploration) on a playing field within a two and a half minute round. Teams were allowed four rounds to complete as many of the missions they could, including crater crossing, solar panel array, move space station modules, and meteoroid deflection, among others.

In addition, teams created a project that identified a problem today’s scientists and engineers are trying to solve, create an innovative solution and share it with others with a display and Q and A.

An all-girl community team from Freemont, the Lunar Llamas, chose boredom in space as their problem, which can lead to stress and depression. Using artificial intelligence and virtual reality, the team created a system that engages all their senses to play games, visit places and see family and friends, even showing age progression. Talking with NASA engineers and scientists, the group was able to find a problem, research what is available and created a solution.

TechFusion, a team from Redwood Middle School in San Jose, chose to develop a Fusion Exercise Resistance Suit, after talking with experts, to help keep astronauts in shape while in zero gravity. After looking at the available, bulky exercise equipment, the team developed a suit to help retain and build muscle and prevent bone density loss that works as an exoskeleton to work muscles and create resistance.

Finally, students learned core values that friendly competition and mutual gain are not separate goals and helping one another is the foundation of teamwork.

ITS Director Alexandre Bayen emceed the event, while several ITS Berkeley and Engineering professors stopped by, including Berkeley DeepDrive Director Trevor Darrell, Shankar Sastry, Allison Post, and Karen Trapenberg Frick, in addition to the many 

“The research, problem-solving, innovation and practical skills the students are learning is remarkable,” says Bayen. “Hosting them on our campus makes sense as we promote these skills at a university level.”

See the full gallery from the day. The NorCal East Bay District Championship was organized by Playng at Learning. Learn more about FIRST LEGO Leauge in the East Bay.