Michelle Yang / Sun Staff Photographer

Elementary school students explored engineering and sustainability through Legos at the 14th annual FIRST Lego Exposition.

January 27, 2020

At Lego Exposition, Young Learners Become Building Tycoons

Print More

Imagine a city where transportation is only by scooter or slides coming off all the buildings. These innovative solutions were some of the many ways that kids channeled their creativity in Duffield Atrium on Saturday while at the 14th annual For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Lego exposition.

In teams of two to six, kids ages six to 10 were given two baseplates and assigned to create a Lego metropolis with the goal of developing a city that reflects principles of accessibility and sustainability.

In order to complete this Lego city-building task, students met with professionals in these areas to learn more about design topics. From there, they went with their own ideas on how to make their “Boomtown” match the criteria.

“We had an architect come and talk to us about how to build energy efficient homes,” said Jamie Kemmerer, who led four teams at the event, while his son Jerome participated.

Other professionals included a city planner, who introduced engineering concepts for the students to consider in building their city under the theme’s guidelines.

From this research and imagination, the kids created their sustainable and accessible cities, with solutions ranging from ramps and solar panels to cities that solely used slides and scooters for transportation. Despite each team receiving the same coaching and guidance, Jamie enjoyed seeing each group come up with a wide range of solutions.

Organized by national science advocacy group FIRST, the exposition, called “Boomtown Build,” focused on issues of accessibility and sustainability in engineering. It was also sponsored by the Cornell NanoScale and Technology Facility, and other organizations volunteered at the event, such as Cornell’s Society for Women Engineers.

Described as “the world’s leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education,” FIRST was founded in 1989 by Segway inventor Dean Kaman. According to Daniel Woodie M.S. ’08, College of Engineering safety manager, Kaman wanted to inspire children to become engineers.

Kaman would often see children who wanted to be professional athletes, but knew that the possibility was unlikely. As the director of the exposition, Woodie wished to invoke Kaman’s vision, believing that through making STEM more enjoyable, children could be more successful.

Saturday also featured a FIRST Lego League Jr. competition. The league is for children ages six to 10, and as interested students age, they move up to more technically advanced competitions. Since the children participating in the event were very young, the event was dubbed an exposition, rather than a competition. Instead, Woodie explained, each city wins its own unique award and the team members go through a high-five line of the reviewers. There were 22 teams in total, 19 of which were from Tompkins County.

“A key of the FIRST programs is that I don’t care how old you are, you can invent, you can come up with ideas,” Woodie said. “I’m going to give you a topic … I want you to go figure out a solution. It doesn’t matter how off-the-wall it is, you’re going to build it, show it and tell the world, ‘This is my idea.’”

Woodie hoped that the experience would make them consider a future career in STEM, and build their own future.