Mission to Space

A recent Lego tournament challenged kids to build robots designed for space travel.

Fourth-graders from Glebe and Tuckahoe Elementary Schools test their robot. Photo by Michael Ventura.

In November, 48 teams made up of more than 300 students from across the region participated in the FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church. (FIRST, an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an educational nonprofit founded by inventor Dean Kamen.) During the tournament, students ranging from fourth- to eighth-graders build, design and program robots made out of Legos to complete missions. The goal is to encourage interest in STEM by applying its disciplines in a fun way. This year’s theme, “Into Orbit,” centered on missions relating to long-term space travel. Sachi Mataka, a fourth-grader at Arlington Science Focus Elementary, says she already knows the experience is going to help her with her career. “I’m going to be a NASA scientist,” she says, “working on the International Space Station.”


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