Monday, February 11, 2019

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Dutchess Community College hosts annual Lego competition

Judging the competition

POUGHKEEPSIE — Twenty-four teams of children living between Westchester County and the Albany area gathered to show off their Lego robots in the 12th annual Hudson Valley FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League Tournament, held at Dutchess Community College in the Town of Poughkeepsie on Saturday.

The competition was designed to engage children between the ages of 9 and 14 into STEM education, as well as promote standard values in youth, according to Casimer DeCusatis, assistant professor of computer science at Marist College, who founded the Hudson Valley chapter of the league in 2005.

“We do hope it’s going to encourage kids who have an interest in [STEM],” DeCusatis said. “We also think we’re teaching kids basic life skills, core values, gracious professionalism, team work, which will serve them well no matter what major they go into in college.”

Mark Courtney, the chairman of the engineering department at Dutchess Community College, agreed.

“The whole idea is to get kids to learn about [STEM] in a way that’s a lot of fun. I think you can see that programming robots to do these different things is a lot of fun.” The parents of these kids cannot contain their excitement each year, according to Courtney.

“They get really excited sometimes,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s a job to keep the parents under control.”

One of those excited parents was Kristen Trevera, a parent from Chappaqua and coach for this year’s tournament.

“[My son] has been doing this for four years, and I love watching him compete every year and see him grow,” Trevera said. “It never gets old.”

The regional competition’s theme this year was “Into Orbit.” Teams were asked to use robots made out of Legos to maneuver through problems typically encountered in space exploration. The winning team will advance on to the national and international tournament.

The Hudson Valley FIRST Lego League is the local affiliate for International First Robotics. Sixty countries worldwide take part in this annual competition. A series of qualifying tournaments were held in the region, and the top 24 teams advanced onto this round.

 


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