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Students Use LEGO Building Blocks, Robots to Solve Energy ‘Puzzle’College of Technology uses games to inspire solutions to real-world problems

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NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A photo of the robot the teams will use is available on the Web at A high-resolution photo is available by contacting Ann Holdsworth.

More than 100 groups of 9-to 14-year-olds from all over Texas will get together to use programmable LEGO ‘bricks’ to solve some of the most critical environmental issues during the 2007 “Power Puzzle” Challenge on Saturday, Dec. 1. The event is sponsored by the University of Houston College of Technology.

A partnership between For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST); the Coordination of Robotics Education (CORE), through the UH College of Technology; and the LEGO Group, a privately held firm based in Denmark, the annual Lone Star FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Championship will feature the puzzling challenge at Reagan High School.

The Houston competition concludes eight weeks of research into energy management and conservation. It will feature more than 100 teams of children and mentors as they demonstrate their problem-solving skills, creative thinking, teamwork, competitive play, sportsmanship and sense of community. Groups use the blocks that have taught the fundamentals of building to children all over the world to complete assigned missions, including exploring solar panels on houses, hydro-dams, wind turbines and planting trees.

Each team’s LEGO robot is a hand-sized programmable brick, made up of LEGOs with a microprocessor inside, and is controllable through a graphics-based computer program. Groups can add wheels and different parts, such as electric motors and touch and light sensors, to make the robot move and perform different tasks to complete the challenges.

“The environment is a huge concern for everyone, including kids,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST founder. “Giving them hands-on experience that allows them to use their imaginations and creativity, in combination with science and technology, to solve a real-world problem is empowering. It captures the true spirit of FIRST LEGO League and unleashes the creative problem-solving skills today’s kids need for building a better tomorrow.”

The tournament is open to the public at no charge, and will provide concessions, including breakfast and lunch options, snacks, T-shirts and robotics gear. This year’s event is the largest FLL Competition in the state, and is one of the largest nationwide. The event also is sponsored by Jacobs Engineering, Insight Technical Solutions, NASA Johnson Space Center, Education Foundation of Harris County, Harris County Department of Education, Houston Independent School District, Clear Creek Independent School District and LEGO Education.

For more information, including sponsorship and volunteer opportunities, visit the CORE Web site at

WHAT: 2007 Lone Star FIRST LEGO League Championship
WHEN: 7:45 – 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1
WHERE: Reagan High School
413 E. 13th St.
Houston, TX 77008