Inventor Dean Kamen Asks 230,000 Children Worldwide to Devise Innovative Solutions to Keep People and Property Safe Before, During, and After a Natural Disaster

FIRST® LEGO® League announces details of its 2013-2014 “NATURE’S FURYSM” Challenge

MANCHESTER, N.H. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — August 27, 2013 — In the 2013 FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) season, children from around the world are tackling an ambitious challenge: to research natural disasters and propose solutions for what can be done when intense natural events meet the places where people work, play, and live. The largest FLL season to date will include 230,000 children, ages 9-16, in more than 80 countries.

“According to the United Nations, natural disasters have affected nearly 3 billion people worldwide and caused nearly $2 trillion USD in damage since 2000,” said President of DEKA Research & Development Corporation and FIRST Founder, Dean Kamen. “Coming up with their own ideas to prepare for, stay safe during, and rebuild after natural disasters empowers kids to make a difference and to feel ready if they learn about or face a natural disaster in the future.”

This year’s FLL “NATURE’S FURYSM” Challenge calls for teams of 9- to 14-year-old children (9 to 16 outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) to research and present their own creative solutions to one of today’s most relevant topics: natural disasters. Teams will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT to solve a set of natural disaster missions, such as positioning an evacuation sign, clearing an airplane’s runway of debris, and delivering supplies. The cornerstones of the experience are the FLL Core Values, which emphasize contributions of others, friendly competition, learning, and community involvement.

Each year in late summer, the FIRST LEGO League releases a themed, three-part Challenge based on a real-world scientific topic applied through a ‘Robot Game,’ a ‘Project,’ and a signature set of FIRST LEGO League ‘Core Values,’ which are the overarching way in which the Challenge is completed. Teams of up to 10 children, with one adult Coach, participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game) and developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project). Past Challenges have been based on topics such as biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, climate, quality of life for handicapped and senior populations, and transportation.

FIRST LEGO League provides a fun and engaging experience for children around the world to become innovators and creative problem solvers on a very relevant and real topic,” said Jacob Kragh, President, LEGO Education. “Using a real-world issue to drive a process where children are in control empowers them with a chance to take what they learn and apply it to their own lives, not only during this challenge, but also to their future adventures and endeavors.”

For the “NATURE’S FURY” Challenge, FLL collaborated with organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Red Cross, the National Weather Service, and other specialists to create a theme and challenge missions that reflect real-world issues.

FLL is an international program for 9- to 14-year-old children (9 to 16 outside the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) created in a partnership between FIRST and the LEGO Group in 1998 to get children excited about science and technology – and teach them valuable career and life skills. Using LEGO MINDSTORMS technologies and LEGO Education materials, children design, build, and program autonomous robots and create an innovative solution to a problem as part of their research project. After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments. Like any other organized “sport,” teams also fundraise, create a team identity, and go on field trips. Adult coaches guide and support the teams throughout the season, but the children do the work.

FIRST LEGO League is one of four programs within the Progression of Programs at Dean Kamen’s not-for-profit organization, FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Kamen founded FIRST over 20 years ago to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The organization offers a progression of four international, after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs for students in K-12.

More than 22,000 6- to 9-year-olds are expected to participate in the Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) “DISASTER BLASTERSM” Challenge this season. Since 2004, Jr.FLL has captured young children’s inherent curiosity and directed it toward discovering the wonders of science and technology. Jr.FLL features a real-world Challenge, solved by research, critical thinking, and imagination. Guided by adult coaches and the Jr.FLL Core Values, students work with LEGO elements and moving parts to build ideas and concepts and present them for review.

Currently in its sixteenth year, FIRST LEGO League anticipates its largest season ever, with approximately 23,000 teams in more than 80 countries competing in hundreds of Qualifying Tournaments and Championship Tournaments. About 230,000 children will compete to win honors and recognition. Teams will also have the opportunity to participate at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, to be held in conjunction with the FIRST Championship, April 23-26, 2014 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

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