TUS Athlone’s Engineering and Informatics Building was buzzing with excitement today as primary and second-level students geared up for a showdown at the FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge Regional Finals.
Students from 18 teams across five counties, including Our Lady’s Bower and Coláiste Chiaráin in Athlone, took part in the day-long competition, battling it out for a coveted spot in the national final in Dublin next month.
Team Garfield from Mercy Secondary School Ballymahon scooped the top prize of ‘Overall Champions’, receiving a trophy crafted entirely from LEGO.
Team Lil Octaves from Stokane National School in Sligo also qualified for nationals.
The winners of the national competition will go on to represent Ireland in the international tier of the global STEM competition in Morocco in May.
“Today’s event isn’t just about showcasing robotics and innovation. It’s about unleashing the creative spirit and problem-solving skills of budding engineers,” explained Dr Clodagh Reid, a lecturer in technology education at TUS Athlone who has been working with students since September, helping them design and build their robots.
In addition to applying maths and science principles to their robot design and build, participating students also had to present a special innovation project which looked at the use of technology for creativity, arts and communication.
“Through months of preparation and outreach, we’ve nurtured their enthusiasm for STEM, and today we witnessed it come to life in the arena as well as through their innovation project,” Dr Reid continued.
As the competition kicked off, teams competed in a series of three Robot Games, pushing their creations to the limits in feats of strength, agility, and strategy; the stakes were high, but so was the camaraderie among participants, who embody core values of teamwork and inclusiveness.
“We’ve seen these students grow not just as engineers, but as collaborators and innovators,” remarked Jane Burns, Director of Education & Public Engagement at TUS Athlone. “Their journey from classroom to competition arena is a testament to the transformative power of STEM education.”
The aim of the FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge is to promote science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), with students honing their problem-solving skills and fostering resilience as they navigate the twists and turns of the competition.
Dean of Engineering & Informatics Dr Sean Lyons said TUS is on a “mission” to inspire the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers by increasing schools’ access to integrated STEM experiences like this one.
“Our mission is not just to impart knowledge but to ignite a passion for STEM in future students. By engaging them in hands-on experiences like FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge, we’re not only developing essential skills like coding, design, and research, but we’re also shaping the innovators and leaders of tomorrow’s workforce,” he explains.
Stokane National School; Dalystown National School, Westmeath; Mercy Secondary School Kilbeggan, Westmeath; and St Joseph’s Rochfortbridge, Westmeath, all won awards on the day including Best Robot Design, Core Values, Innovation, Rising Stars & Motivator awards.
FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge, supported by FIRST®, LEGO Education and the LEGO Foundation, is coordinated in Ireland by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in conjunction with Learnit.