Locals Compete In FIRST LEGO Tourney

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Mineola High School will host Nassau County’s inaugural FIRST LEGO League (FLL) all-day qualifying match on Saturday, Jan. 31.

“This is quite an event for the county as well as our district,” School District Superintendent Michael Nagler said. “[FIRST] does most of their stuff in Longwood. But they’ve grown so big that they needed to split the tournaments. I look forward to a lot of fun that day and seeing another side of competition in the gym.”

Nagler met with the league on Tuesday, Jan. 13 to go over details for Saturday’s event. Schools across Nassau, including Oyster Bay and Locust Valley, will have teams in the match.

“I’m looking forward to this,” Nagler said. “I coach my son in the junior FLL. I think it’s a great program, particularly in our STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program because it deals with the engineering aspect. Part of bringing it to Mineola is also volunteering to host the competition.”

Thirty-two, 10-member team tournaments will be held on Saturday. Local schools will boast five teams from Locust Valley, one from Portledge Middle School, one from Oyster Bay, one from St. Dominic and one from Bayville in the qualifier.

Locust Valley Central School District Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Anna F. Hunderfund, said that in total, about 18 students from the intermediate school, 24 from the middle school and 24 high school students are participating.

“The older students seem to be drawn to the program by the idea of working with Legos and by having the ability to build a robot,” says Hunderfund. “Both of these are motivational because both are fun and intellectually stimulating. Students, especially younger ones, appear to be motivated by being able to build things and to learn to think critically. The advisor indicates that many of the students do not realize that they are as talented and creative as they are. After participating in programs like this one, they come to that conclusion. They are also drawn to this program because they are able to be ‘team-members’ and to deal with real-world problems. Of course, all this happens while the students continue to have fun ‘playing’ with Legos and with robots.”

The league is an international program for children that combines a hands-on, interactive robotics program with a sports-like atmosphere. For this year’s FLL Challenge throughout the world, FLL World Class, more than 265,000 children from 80 countries will participate in league events.

“Through the FIRST program, students learn to reach a common goal by working as a team, to develop their creativity, to respect the opinion of others and to have fun while growing intellectually and creatively,” says Hunderfund. “Long term, the benefits for the younger students are that they may learn and continue to develop skills and technical insights, which in the high school may be the foundation for—and evolve in many productive ways—including computer programming and mechanical engineering.”

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