NASHUA — Junior engineers from around New Hampshire landed
on Nashua High’s north campus yesterday for the First Lego League
The event offered about 450 children, ages 9-14, a mission:
Design a robot out of Lego blocks and, combining teamwork and
research, maneuver it through a complex obstacle course on a
simulated Red Planet.
Organizers, however, suggest a second mission: getting kids
excited about science.
“They’re not sinking baskets,” said Scott Evans, league engineer.
“We give them a fun environment to learn about something that’s
tough to get kids excited about.”
Yesterday’s championship, one of 42 nationwide this month,
combined “the energy of a Super Bowl with the contents of a science
fair,” he said.
Forty-eight teams, flanked by as many as 1,000 friends, relatives
and coaches, gathered at the high school as early as 7:30 a.m. None
of the competitors left without a medal.
“What’s important is that each kid goes home feeling like a
winner,” said Amy Bucklin, spokeswoman for the event.
Mindstorms Mayhem, a Milford-based team of homeschoolers, took
home the coveted Director’s Award, given to the most well-rounded
“I think the lord has gifted us,” said Mayhem member Ben
Streeter, 15, of Bedford, explaining his team’s victory.
Scores were based on four criteria: research, design, teamwork
and robot performance.
Under dimmed lights, parents and competitors cheered as two
teams, Spoink and Robosquad, battled for first place in the
Even after being knocked out of the contest, competitors danced
on the sidelines and cheered on their former opponents.
Of course, the kids come to win, said Randy Bohannan, coach of
the Flying Geeks, based in Nashua. “It’s sports for geeks,” he said.
Joyce Askenaizer, whose twin daughters competed for the Space
Cows from Hollis, said her girls take the competition seriously.
They’re into engineering, not Barbie, she said.
“They played with their brother’s Legos more than he did,” she
Linda Lavoie, the tournament’s director, said the league is
getting more competitive, Lavoie said. The only qualification a team
needed to reach last year’s championship was to have its name pulled
out of a hat, she said.
This year, more than 100 teams squared off in tournaments across
The transition was not as smooth as they had hoped. Last
weekend’s storm forced the league to cancel four of those contests.
To make up for the lost matches, teams gathered in Manchester
Thursday night for a quick-hit showdown.
Organizers and sponsors are hoping the tournament inspires kids
to admire scientists as much as athletes, Evans said. Sponsors like
BAE Systems, which is active in aerospace technology, are interested
in the competition’s real-world applications, he said.
“They know they’re cultivating their future workforce,” he said.