Islands schools do battle in Lego event

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Pupils from schools across the Outer Hebrides gathered at Sir E Scott School in Harris last week to take part in an international competition about building and programming Lego robots.

It was the first time the Outer Hebrides had taken part in the First Lego League tournament, aimed at getting more young people involved with STEM activities.

Sgoil Lionacleit, Castlebay and Sir E Scott battled it out with their robot designs, while a group from the Nicolson watched what was going on to get ideas for next time.

The STEM acronym stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and the First Lego League tournament is based around building and programming Mindstorm Lego robots.

The event is held every year, with a different theme each year. The theme for 2019 was space, or Into Orbit.

Judges scored the teams on their robot design and its performance in a task-based game, as well as on a research project and their interpretation of First Lego League core values.

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Pupils focus on the job in hand. Photograph: Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos

Sgoil Lionacleit won the robot challenge and were the overall winners, while Castlebay – the only school with a gender-balanced team – won core values and Sir E Scott won the research project.

The event was organised by Lews Castle College UHI with the support of The Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Energy Skills Partnership, as well as sponsorship from community wind farm charity Point and Sandwick Trust, which gave £2,000 for the travel and accommodation costs of bringing the school teams up to Harris from the Southern Isles.

Roddy Ferguson, head of technology at Lews Castle College UHI, was one of the main organisers.

Commenting afterwards he said: ‘The standard of the teams was excellent. They should be proud of themselves. They’ve done really well. All the teams were really enthusiastic and very knowledgeable of the different aspects of the design and the projects.’

Judge Andrew Mackenzie said it had been ‘so nice to see young people getting together, travelling quite long distances to compete in a technological competition.

‘Lego is so sophisticated now, with sensors and inbuilt computers and all the mechanical bits and pieces – on the surface simple but underneath very sophisticated. ‘

Lauren MacNeil, 12, from the Castlebay team, was one of the two presenters, and she said afterwards: ‘It’s been amazing. We’ve had so much fun getting here and doing this.’

Meanwhile, Maureen Monaghan, a chemistry teacher accompanying the Castlebay group, added: ‘It’s been a brilliant day for them. They’ve had loads of fun, just meeting the other schools. It’s been great fun.’