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Lego Robotics competitions @ HP Labs Bristol


Contributed by Richard Brown, Senior Research Manager HP Labs Bristol




For almost the last 10 years HP Labs Bristol has been hosting around 600 school children from 60-70 schools across the South West of England for the First Lego League regional robotics finals. Taking place each year at the end of November, this two-day fun-packed, high-energy event encourages kids to show off their robot building and programming skills and their understanding of technology and the environment.


So important is this event to the region that one year a BBC film crew spent an entire afternoon filming for a live midday TV report and its evening news show. Another year a local radio station broadcast some live interviews.


The young contestants have to put their robots through their paces in a series of testing challenges based around the theme for the year. There have been a range of themes over the years including energy, climate, transport, medicine, and food to name just a few. HP staff participate as referees and judge each team according to their technical skill and robot design, programming skills, teamwork and presentation.


The robots themselves are built by the school teams from Lego parts, including motors, sensors, wheels and arms. But each one is unique and colourful and is programmed to carry out the competition tasks by the teams that built it. As part of the challenge, the teams also have to present a research project to a panel of judges. These presentations are always colourful, creative and full of fun. In between the actual robotics challenge matches and project presentations, the day is also packed full with lively dancing and balloon fancy dress competitions. It is probably the noisiest two days that HP Labs Bristol experiences each year.


Winners of the south west regional final go on to participate in the UK national finals in Loughborough and if successful they can go even further to the world championship finals in the United States. In fact, in 2012 a school from Bath who were the winners of our regional final went on to become the world champions – a proud moment for everyone who had the privilege of being involved.


We are pleased to host and support this excellent competition because it helps to encourage the scientists, engineers and technologists of tomorrow – and such enthusiastic and well-trained people are the lifeblood of an IT company like ours.





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