Campbell to host FIRST Robotics Lego League event for Harnett Schools Tuesday

Campbell’s School of Engineering will host a FIRST Robotics Lego League kick-off event in Turner Auditorium on Tuesday. The Lego League is the elementary and middle school version of FIRST Robotics, a program brought hundreds of high school students from across the state to campus the past two years.

Whereas the University sponsors the high school-level team, the 13 Lego schools competing Tuesday are sponsored by Harnett County Public Schools and represent each elementary school in the county. Campbell Assistant Professor of Engineering Lynn Albers is assisting the Lego teams this year and has recruited several engineering majors to serve as mentors to the younger teams.

“We are so pleased to be able to help mentor these teams, and we are deeply appreciative of Harnett County’s commitment to advance STEM education,” said School of Engineering Dean Jenna Carpenter. “Our students benefit from working with the elementary teams, and the elementary students get a peek at what engineering really is.”

Last year, 29 students contributed more than 229 hours of robotics programming mentorship at three Harnett County schools — Boone Trail, Erwin and Buies Creek — under the leadership of teachers Matt Tomala, Michelle Lee and Andrea Abate; School-to-Career Coordinator Audra DeSorbo and Chief Technology Officer Jennifer Byrd. The program was rolled out to primarily fourth- and fifth-graders and AIG students.

“Studies have shown that if you don’t introduce a child to engineering by the third grade, they won’t be interested in it [later on],” Albers said. “We felt last year that fourth grade was ‘close enough,’ and our goal was to pique their interest in engineering.”

Albers said she is grateful for the “time, courage and expertise” of the students, teachers and mentors she worked with in 2016, and said she looks forward to working with more teams and more teachers this fall. Like last year, Campbell Engineering students will help mentor the fourth and fifth graders, and high school seniors from Overhills will assist her students in mentoring, thanks to Science Olympiad mentor Stephanie Creech.

The First Lego League kick-off event for Harnett County teams will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Turner Auditorium. North Carolina FLL organizers Fiona Last-Powell and Sam Last will lead the event and team-building activities.

Campbell will also host one of the N.C. FLL Qualifier events on Nov. 11 in D. Rich Hall and Carter Gymnasium. There will be 24 teams competing that day, some (hopefully) from Harnett County.