FIRST Lego League Announces Seventh Youth Challenge

First.logoFor Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) has announced the topic of its seventh FIRST Lego League (FLL) task, asking students to explore the future of learning as part of the FLL World Class Challenge.

The challenge asks teams of 9- to 14-year-olds (9 to 16 outside North America) worldwide to research and present original ideas to enrich the current landscape of learning. Teams will also build, test, and program an autonomous robot using Lego Mindstorms technology to solve a series of wisdom-gathering missions based on the theme.

More than 260,000 children in nearly 80 countries are expected to participate in the FLL event, with an additional 27,000 6- to 9-year-olds expected in the Junior FLL competition. Teams of up to 10 children, with two adult coaches, participate in the eight-week challenge, which culminates in high-energy, sports-like tournaments. Past challenges have included topics such as natural disasters, biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, quality of life for handicapped and senior populations, and transportation. [Read more...]

COMMENTARY: It’s All About the Robots

Earlier this week, Senior Editor Marissa DiBartolo wrote about how the floor of the American International Toy Fair 2014 was lacking in the realm of appcessories, and that many companies were heading back to the classic play patterns, especially in the activities category. I also noticed an emerging trend that does not heavily rely on app technology, but does not veer from the idea of incorporating tech into playtime: robots.

As I walked the floor, I saw a bunch of different robotic products that really displayed where the category is heading—and a lot of that was not app-reliant. Of course, most of these robots can be controlled with or used with smart devices, but gone are the days where “and it has an app!” was a suitable enough novelty to convince consumers to purchase the toy.

Ali.Feb27First, let me introduce you to MiP. MiP, which is short for Mobile Inverted Pendulum, is WowWee’s latest innovation in association with the University of California at San Diego’s Coordinated Robots Lab. MiP has unique dual wheel balancing (thanks to that inverted pendulum science!) and is a fully interactive robot. MiP is able to navigate his surroundings while being controlled by hand gestures or through a Bluetooth link to a smart device. MiP also has a personality that is communicated through motion, sounds, and his LED eyes. [Read more...]