Engineers of tomorrow do battle with Lego robots

14,000 Norwegian schoolchildren participate in First Lego League  

“We built this robot with Lego, and we’re using the iPad to create codes that make it perform various tasks on the board here,” says Kristian Laursen Enger (12), from Sarpsborg.

He’s one of a total of 14,000 children who have participated in the world’s largest First Lego League competition, which has taught them coding in a whole new way.

But can Lego, robots and coding help create tomorrow’s engineers? Statoil and First Scandinavia certainly think so. The competition has been held for 17 years running, and the Scandinavian final was recently held in Statoil’s premises at Fornebu, Oslo.

“Through Statoil’s talent development concept “Heroes of Tomorrow”, we support projects that inspire children who want to explore technology, science and science. And we know that the First Lego League is a project that works,” says Statoil’s head of sponsorships, Cathrine Instebø.

And it has been proven to work, since over half of the children taking part in the First Lego League say that they would like to work with or study technology, according to a survey. And that’s important for Statoil.

“Statoil as a company, but also Norwegian society in general, needs more engineers in the future, and obviously schools and colleges are the most important arenas for developing engineers. But in Statoil, we believe that enjoyable competitions like the First Lego League are also important, where children can gain an interest in science and technology through fun and games,” says Instebø

Science talents are a rare breed in Norway

Cathrine Instebø, head of Statoil’s Heroes of Tomorrow programme. 

Effort, enthusiasm and learning

And here at Statoil’s office in Oslo on this Saturday in December, 650 children from 45 teams from Scandinavia, Iceland and the Faroe Islands are energetically and enthusiastically competing in the categories of research, technology, marketing, core values ​​and robotic driving.

“Nooo!” The outburst of frustration comes from the direction of the table where Kristian from Sarpsborg is running his robot. The robot failed to perform one of its tasks as intended, and despair fills the faces of the teammates around the table.

They have practiced thoroughly and the robot worked well on the dry run, but in the final leg of the competition, it fails to work as it should.

“Try a new code,” encourages a teammate.

Kristian is frantically typing new commands on his iPad, but the robot refuses to obey the commands the way it did on the practice run.

It starts to sink in to the team from Sarpsborg that they won’t be winning the final heat. But their disappointment fades quickly and the team agrees that it has been fun and that they have learned a lot.

“It’s been fun to compete and it has made us think more about how we use maths and coding in practice,” they say. 

Distance no obstacle

Winning the First Lego League requires teamwork, and there is no place in this competition for inflated egos or divas. So it was especially impressive that the winning team consisted of students from the Norwegian towns of Steigen and Bodø: two communities separated by 210 km.

“We've worked so hard for this and spent all our spare time learning to be at our best in the finals, so it’s great fun that we won,” the members of the team said after securing their victory.

“Science talents are a rare breed in Norway,” says Cathrine Instebø.  

“The team ‘Septem’ from Bodø and Steigen have shown an impressive level of enthusiasm and willingness to learn throughout the competition. It is precisely these qualities that characterize Norway's greatest talents in sports, culture and education. Hopefully, many of the people we have met in this final will be engineers and researchers in the future,” says Cathrine Instebø.

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