Hammerfest First Lego League team invited to World Festival in US
First Lego League (FLL) is an international competition whose purpose is to make science and math interesting to children and young people (ages 9-16). The theme of this year`s FLL challenge was “nature`s fury,” and the teams had to choose a natural disaster, identify a problem, and create an innovative solution.
To solve the missions they have to build and program a Lego Mindstorm robot. The team presents their solutions as oral presentations in front of judges and in robot games with other teams. Last the team is evaluated on its core values. The teams compete for different awards, with the overall winner called FLL Champions. The winners from each regional tournament compete in Finales. Two of the winning teams from the Scandinavian Finales are this year invited to participate in the FLL World Festival with teams from 70 countries all over the world.
The team from Hammerfest consists of four girls and three boys attending 9th grade at Breilia skole. The name of the team – Nordskjelv or“Northquake,” was chosen because they are from the far North and inspired by the challenge theme of nature`s fury. These teenagers work with FLL in their spare time after doing their schoolwork, sports, and other activities.
Hammerfest is located way above the Arctic Circle and is the northernmost city of the world. When choosing their natural disaster they looked for something close – avalanches. Avalanches occur often in Hammerfest, and there are snowfences all over the town – the closest ones located right behind their school building. Most avalanches in the area are small, but every now and then there are bigger ones that damage buildings and hurt people. The last deadly avalanche in Hammerfest was in 2011. The team interviewed one of the survivors.
Nordskjelv talked to local rescuers like the Red Cross, and also to the department in Norway that works with avalanches and safety. The team chose to focus on how to make people aware of the avalanche forecasts that NVE (Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate) makes. People may hear the forecast on the radio or look it up online, but a big problem is that people are not aware of the forecasts and therefore enter areas with high risk of avalanche.
Nordskjelv`s idea is to combine existing systems for avalanche forecasts with the GPS function in a smartphone. They call their solution “snowphone,” and with the snowphone app you will get push-warnings with vibrations, light, and sound when near to or entering an area with high avalanche risk. This solution already exists in some other countries, for instance Austria and the US – but it does not exist in Norway.
In the tournament in Hammerfest Nordskjelv became FLL Champion, which meant that they got to go to the Scandinavian Finales to compete against 52 other teams in Bodø. Nordskjelv won the award for best project. The judges called their project solution simple genius and said it would save lives as soon as it becomes a reality.
The teenagers are invited to participate in the World Festival in April, representing not only Hammerfest but all of Norway. Their problem now is figuring out how to get to the competition. It is expensive to travel all the way from Hammerfest to St. Louis and the team needs about 300,000 Norwegian kroner ($48,750 USD). The team has sent out lots of letters to sponsors, and at this time they have about 100,000 NOK. Now they need everyone`s help and the local newspaper, “Hammerfestingen,” has started a donation site in their newspaper. The team has also published their bank account number on Facebook.
Nordskjelv wants to do a good job in St.Louis and they have started to learn science, math, and technology English vocabulary to use in the competition. The team also wants to improve their project. Snowphone is now only an idea, and they want to see if it is possible to make a test version of the app. In the robot game the team wants to build a new robot. They received the newest mindstorms robot, EV3, as a gift from Hammerfest county, and they want to build and program the new robot. The team is eager to learn new things and the teenagers say that they look forward to learning from the other winning teams in the World Festival.
This article originally appeared in the Jan. 24, 2014 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.