A total of 25 robotics teams are set to compete in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) LEGO League (FLL) Qualifier Saturday, Nov. 18 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Oñate High School. The teams are composed of elementary and middle school students from public schools, private schools, and church groups throughout New Mexico. The event is free and open to the public.

As part of the competition, teams, each composed of 2-10 students and two or more coaches, will research a real-world engineering challenge, develop a solution, and compete in a variety of tabletop missions with LEGO-based robots of their own design.

Keeping with the competition’s 2017-18 theme of Hydro Dynamics, the 18 tabletop missions will require the teams to design, build, and program robots to perform autonomous tasks such as filling a cup of water or flushing a toilet.

Each robot will then be scored based on how it performs in the categories of: core values, how well a team works together; robot design, how well the robot is designed and programmed; and project, how the project identifies a problem within the human water cycle and then presents an innovative solution to solve the problem.

The winning teams from the FLL Qualifier will advance to the 2017 FLL HYDRO DYNAMICSSM New Mexico Region Championship which will take place Feb. 10, 2018 at the Menaul School in Albuquerque.

The competition will feature 21 teams from the Las Cruces area, three from Mesquite, and one from Hobbs. Judging and practice sessions occur in the morning, robot games start at 1:15 p.m., and closing ceremonies will take place at 5 p.m.

FIRST conducts the largest robotics competition in the world. Over 460,000 students participated worldwide during the 2016-17 season. At the 2016 FLL Qualifier in Las Cruces, 30 teams with a total of 210 students competed.

Southern New Mexico STEM Alliance is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting FIRST Robotics in Southern New Mexico. SNMSA provides financial assistance and leadership for local teams and FLL and FLL Junior competitions. For more information about SNMSA, contact: info@snmsa.org.

Story by Deanna Rankin, Project NEO, deanna@projectneo.net