McNicol Middle School Students And Their Robots Fight Food Contamination With This Year’s F.I.R.S.T. Lego League Challenge – Now Headed To Regional Competition

Team 6888, Cold Activated, from McNicol Middle School also poses with their robot. The team, from left to right is composed of Kimberly Albern, Kevin Orrego, Beatriz Brito, Victor Ugarte, David Drummond, Shamir Reid, Cody Nieves, Ricardo Garcia, Micaela Sebastion, and Damara Holmes.

To most kids, Legos are for constructing Star Wars aircraft, pirate ships or towering skyscrapers. But, to a group of students at McNicol Middle School on January 7, 2012, Legos took on a whole new meaning. Since September, teams of students worldwide researched, designed, built & programmed, tested and collaborated under the guidance of adult coaches and mentors. Robotics Teacher, Phillip Shaver, worked with two teams at McNicol Middle Magnet & STEM School to prepare for competition at one of the biggest F.I.R.S.T. Lego League Qualifying tournaments in
Florida. At the end of the whole day event, the students’ efforts were rewarded when the two teams earned bids to the Regional Tournament to take place on their home turf on January 28th.

McNicol Middle School, located in Hollywood, FL, is a Magnet School for Science and Pre-Engineering as well as International Affairs and Business. Students that are a part of the Science & Pre-Engineering program attend both science curriculum and science research classes which offer hands on, real world applications in themed magnet classes. Within the International Affairs & Business program students are immersed into the Spanish, French, or Japanese language and culture. Under the direction of Principal Horace Hamm, McNicol Middle School’s Mission is to prepare high school ready, college bound students.

F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. This year’s challenge calls for teams of three to ten children, ages nine to fourteen to go head-to-head in the “Food Factor” Challenge. The FIRST Lego League competition combines a classic children’s building block with today’s latest technology. It requires intense months of research and design to formulate creative solutions to Food Safety, one of the most reported, science- related headlines in the news. Their work culminates in competition where teams demonstrate their problem solvingskills, creative thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship, and sense of community. Their presentations reflect on innovative solutions to making food safe including methods of sustainability.

With missions including disinfecting cleaning surfaces, local farming, delivering food, removing bacteria at a sink, checking temperature of food, and sustainable fishing, teams have been challenged to program Lego NXT robots to score the highest number of points on the competition field. The FLL competition is judged in four areas: project presentation, robot performance, technical design & programming, and core values. The highest honor goes to the team that best exemplifies the spirit and values of the program to earn the Champion’s trophy.

“Kids are excited to be a part of a team that involves their interests. I am so lucky to be able to work with these students,” said Mr. Shaver, Magnet Programs Coordinator and Robotics Coach. “The FLL organization teaches the important things kids need to know for a 21st century career, including teamwork, sharing, innovation, listening, and research & presentation skills.”

This year has seen FLL’s largest enrollment of teams with over 400 teams in the State of Florida and over 200,000 kid scientists (20,000 teams) participating worldwide. The qualifying tournaments in Florida wrap up this month. Next, there will be two weekends of regional competition throughout the state. McNicol Middle School will host South Florida’s only Regional Tournament on January 28, 2012. Teams, including the two from McNicol Middle School will be competing for a few high profile bids to the state tournament at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne at the end of February.

Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, NH, FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With the support of many of the world’s most well-known companies, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition and FIRST Tech Challenge for high school students, FIRST Lego League for children 9-14 years old, and Junior FIRST Lego League for 6 to 9 year olds. To learn more about FIRST, go to To learn more about the “Food Factor” Challenge, go to

Systems Inc. (LSI) is the Americas (North America and Latin America) division of THE LEGO Group, a privately-held firm based in Billund, Denmark. The LEGO Group is committed to the development of children’s creative and imaginative abilities through high-quality, creatively educational play materials, and its employees are guided by the motto adopted in the 1930’s by founder Ole Kirk Christiansen: “Only the best is good enough.” For more information, visit

LEGO and the LEGO logo are trademarks of The LEGO Group. © 2011 The LEGO Group.

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