Two Lochaber teams head to Scottish Lego league tournament

Inverlochy Innovators (Inverlochy PS), got the top spot in this round of the First Lego League tournament and will progress to the next round with Universe (Glencoe PS). Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

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Two schools from Lochaber have the chance to compete for Scotland at the First Lego League after doing well in the West Highland Tournament.

Inverlochy Innovators (Inverlochy PS) came in first place and Universe (Glencoe PS) were second in the competition that has teams of pupils from ages nine to 16 put their STEM skills to the test.

This means that these two teams will be progressing to the Scottish final in Perth on February 29. The three top teams from that will progress to International Tournaments in the USA, Greece and Brazil.

Universe (Glencoe PS) came second in points overall and won the Innovation Project award for their idea to design a new community centre in Glencoe. They will be heading to Perth for the Scottish final on February 29. Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

For the challenge, teams programme an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field, develop a solution to a problem they have identified, and must be guided by the FIRST Core Values.

The event was coordinated at West Highland College UHI, Fort William, by Claire Thomson, course leader for construction.

She said: ‘The teams are all given challenge sets and the missions, as well as a standard EV robot and lego. They then need to think about how to adapt the robot to do the missions quicker since they have 13 missions and only two and a half minutes.

‘The theme for the challenges this year is Cityscapes and gets the kids thinking about issues that arise in built-up areas and how to combat them. They’re not just making a robot do things, but giving it a context to learn and think about issues that they could find solutions for.’

The Kelpies team (St Brides PS) in action who won the Core Values Trophy. Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

The teams must create a robot that can be programmed to move in specific ways and also operate some Lego based mechanical objects such as pulleys and levers.

The programming uses Lego’s own simple system and the robots have to move completely independently and complete tasks.

Event organiser, Energy Skills Partnership (ESP), is holding 10 tournaments across Scotland with the best teams from each going to the Scottish finals.

The team that organised the event hope to have many more across the Highlands next time around. Claire Thomson (centre), Jim Brown (right). Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

The Director of ESP, Jim Brown, was helping out at the tournament and is enthusiastic about the competition that encourages pupils to work in teams.

He said: ‘This competition means you need a team that has complementing skills. Someone who is good at the programming, engineering the robot but also things like organisation to make sure things get done properly, and research skills for the innovation project.

‘This is the first of time this tournament has been in Lochaber, teams in the Scottish final will progress to the international tournaments rather than having to then go through the UK competition as they previously did.

‘The teams progressing will find largely the same missions but will be given advice on how to improve in the meantime.’

When the tournament returns, West Highland College UHI is hoping to have tournaments at as many locations as possible to bring in as many schools from the area.