Introducing Biomedical Engineering to Children Via Robots

Sept. 7, 2010
The FIRST LEGO 'body forward' challenge

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen, is engaging 171,000 children, ages 9 to 14, in more than 50 countries to explore the exciting world of Biomedical Engineering through hands-on, minds-on teamwork in the 2010 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge called "Body Forward."

"Body Forward" is a two-part robotics challenge that requires research to complete the project phase, and science and engineering to master the complex missions of the robot game phase. In the project phase, teams will research a body part, function, or system; create an innovative solution to protect, repair, heal, or improve it; and share their solution(s) with the global community. In the robot game phase, teams will confront some of todays medical issues and apply robotics, sensor technology, and ingenuity to solve them.

Robot missions in the FLL Challenge range from the familiar, including bone repair, rapid blood screening, and pace makers, to the futuristic, such as nerve mapping, bionic eyes, and object control through thought. The robots, designed by the children and built using LEGO MINDSTORMS technologies, will require a variety of mechanical capabilities to accomplish the missions set forth in the Challenge.

"With medical issues impacting each and every one of us in our lifetime, we will need a new generation of innovators to build on the miracles of modern medicine and ensure future advances in healthcare, for us and for themselves. This year's focus on Biomedical Engineering introduces these young scientists to an exciting field that is virtually exploding with possibilities," said Dean Kamen, FIRST founder.

"Body Forward" was developed with the input of Biomedical Engineering experts to provide a practical and realistic challenge project and robot missions. This year's Challenge Advisory Team included: Scott Cummings, Prosthetist and Orthotist, Next Step Prosthetics and Orthotics; Dr. Lisa Freed, Senior Technical Member, Draper Laboratory - Biomedical Engineering Group; Dr. Marie Johnson, Director, University of Minnesota - Center for Medical Devices; and Dr. Tom Skalak, Chairman and Professor, University of Virginia -- Department of Biomedical Engineering.

Currently in its twelfth year, FIRST LEGO League anticipates its biggest season ever, with more than 17,000 teams in more than 50 countries competing in hundreds of Qualifying Tournaments and Championship Tournaments. More than 170,000 children will compete to win honors and recognition. Teams will also have the opportunity to participate at the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, to be held in conjunction with the FIRST Championship, April 27-30, 2011 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. In addition, more than 10,000 6 to 9 year-olds are expected to participate in Junior FIRST LEGO League this season.

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