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The award-winning newspaper of Anne Arundel Community College.

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Campus Current

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LEGO robotics tournament hosted at AACC

Divine Mesumbe
The FIRST LEGO League was held for the first time since the COVID pandemic at AACC’s CALT Atrium.

AACC students volunteered at a Lego robotics tournament in the CALT Atrium on Saturday.

Fifteen teams from across Maryland participated in the FIRST LEGO League tournament, where kids ranging from elementary to middle school brought robots they built with Legos for the competition.

“By starting these kids young and getting them into robotics and things like that, it can really help foster creativity and innovation for the workforce later,” James Day, an AACC alumnus who comes back to support the annual event, said.

The winning team, Artemis, which is unaffiliated with any school, will advance to the state tournament at University of Maryland, Baltimore County on Feb. 24 along with teams Brick Bot Builders, which is also unaffiliated, and Buster Botz, from the Howard County Chinese School.

The FIRST LEGO League hasn’t hosted a new tournament in three years because of the pandemic, according to Engineering Department Chair Elizabeth Baran.

“I forgot what it felt like to have this event go on because we hadn’t done it for so long,” Baran, the tournament director, said. “I’m really appreciative of the efforts that everybody made on our campus to help us set up our space.”

According to Baran, 45 student and faculty volunteers participated in the event.

“If we couldn’t recruit people to run this, then we wouldn’t host this event,” Baran said. “But every year, we’ve completely staffed this event. … I’m so appreciative that everybody stepped up.”

Baran said the event helps give children “exposure” to STEM.

“This is about getting students really excited about being computer programmers, about engineering, about doing technical things, about problem solving, about teamwork, about learning to be nice and being cooperative,” Baran said. “There’s a lot of skills besides just programming that they learned by participating.”

Baran’s husband, David, an engineer who served as head judge of the event, agreed.

“I think it’s really important to get this age group invested in STEM,” David Baran said. “No matter whether they want to be, you know, an engineer or a scientist or any professional job, it’s going to be really important.”

AACC students said they had different reasons for volunteering for the event.

Second-year engineering student Noah Caddeo said the event is a “great idea.”

“I actually did robotics myself back in middle school, [but] I didn’t go to any of the competitions,” Caddeo said. “I thought it would be interesting to see what the next generation of STEM looked like.”

Second-year engineering student Megan Vanderwalt said she volunteered because it was a “great opportunity” to “encourage young people” to join the STEM field.

“Legos are very straightforward for the most part, and there’s so many things that you can do with them,” Vanderwalt said. “For kids, it’s like, great for them to be able to get a good start.”

Third-year engineering student Erik Binnix said the event “just sounded like a lot of fun” to him.

“As a kid I went to a couple of these types of events,” Binnix said. “It’s an easy way for people to get into [the STEM field] … I think it’s fantastic.”

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