Most people think of them as snap-together construction toys, but to educators, Legos can be valuable learning tools in cutting-edge disciplines.
That is why Ashland Community and Technical College is hosting a First Lego League regional tournament Dec. 7 at its EastPark campus, and it is why ACTC is reaching out to schools and community organizations to form more teams to enter the tournament.
And through an anonymous donor, ACTC is offering matching grants for new-team startups.
First Lego is a robotics program using the same interlocking system as the toy bricks but adds additional components, including electronic controls, that engage students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics — the STEM disciplines that have been identified as the keys to the 21st century economy.
“We want to encourage more interest in science, technology, engineering and math. First Lego also helps youth develop teamwork, critical thinking and problem-solving skills which will be important to them later in life,” said ACTC dean of resource development and external relations Larry Ferguson.
First Lego was founded in 1989 and now has more than 20,000 teams in more than 70 countries.
There are a handful of teams in Northeast Kentucky, and the tournament will be open to them and to new teams in Boyd, Greenup, Carter, Elliott and Lawrence counties.
That is where the grant comes in. An anonymous donor gave $10,000 to the ACTC Foundation to establish 10 of the grants; local schools or community groups may apply for a $1,000 grant and raise the remaining $500 to $1,000 needed for team materials and activities.
Teams comprise up to 10 children and at least one adult coach. Coaches don’t have to be engineers or scientists.
Starting date for application submission is Aug. 1 and deadline for applications is Aug. 30. A foundation committee will review and approve applications.
The grants must be used to form new teams and can pay for materials such as Lego robotics kits, software, project materials and team t-shirts, or for competition travel or scholarships for students who can’t afford competition.
For applications call (606) 326-2092 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
MIKE JAMES can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2652.