ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Motivated by the importance of involving kids in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and math applications, Sandia National Laboratories computer scientist Mohamed Ebeida started a robotics program last year at the Islamic Center of New Mexico for boys and girls from 6 to 14 years old.
This summer, two teams of six children from the program were among 40 international teams chosen to compete in a NASA-organized First Lego League tournament in West Virginia. One of the two teams won the Inspiration Core Value award, a major prize that involved working together in a helpful spirit.
“This kind of success is great insulation for the kids from all the issues they face in school,” Ebeida said. “By the time they reach the age when other teenagers are causing trouble, these kids will be getting internships from Silicon Valley. These kids now feel they are special.”
This year, the First Lego League theme — “Animal Allies” — involved programming Lego robots built by the contestants to collect and distribute food to animals according to their type. Each team got 2.5 minutes to finish as many missions as they could.
“Our team was unique in its strategy,” Ebeida said. “The children took advantage of a no-ceiling rule and built a 5-foot-tall Lego structure that rotated and achieved multiple tasks at the same time.”
The team also competed in robot design and research projects. “We trained them for this competition for more than a year and a half, and received a lot of support from different communities, both financially and from volunteers.”
Sandia helped sponsor the New Mexico First Lego League competition held in Albuquerque in February. The teams’ performance there led to the invitation to the international tournament in West Virginia.
“Our program is open to everyone,” Ebeida said. “Many parents have reached out to me and want their kids to join. The goal is diversity and getting kids excited about STEM.”
Sandia National Laboratories is a multimission laboratory operated by National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International Inc., for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. Sandia Labs has major research and development responsibilities in nuclear deterrence, global security, defense, energy technologies and economic competitiveness, with main facilities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Livermore, California.
Sandia news media contact: Neal Singer, firstname.lastname@example.org, (505) 845-7078