By Barbara G. Goode, Small Times staff
May 1, 2007 — This year’s recent FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta featured the Nano Quest real-life challenge, which tasked students, ages 9 to 14, to design, build, and program robots to explore the world of nanotechnology.
Nano Quest was part of the event’s FIRST LEGO League (FLL) World Festival; it drew 94 teams from around the world. “Every FIRST LEGO League challenge helps students discover how imagination and creativity combined with science and technology can solve real-world problems, and this year’s focus on nanotechnology introduces them to a new frontier of science and technology,” said Dean Kamen, FIRST founder and inventor of the Segway transporter.
According to FIRST organizers, Nano Quest presented nanotechnology in understandable terms, highlighting diverse and positive ways it promises to enhance or even revolutionize existing technologies to solve problems and invent things never thought possible. FIRST collaborated with the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science & Technology and the Cornell University Nanobiotechnology Center to help shape a theme and challenge missions that reflect real issues in the study of traditional sciences at the molecular level. These include manipulating individual atoms, clothes that never get dirty, an elevator to outer space, and cures for disease.
Every participating team’s robot ran through a series of missions on the Nano Quest table. (Photo: Adriana M. Groisman)
One mission involved testing nanotechnology-enhanced stain-resistant fabric. Each team’s robot was required to deliver a dirt trap to a specific location and empty the tester’s dirt dumper. Correct delivery of the dirt trap was worth 15 points; a completely empty dumper when empty was worth another 15 points. The dirt pieces were Bonus Objects, worth 5 points each in the dirt trap, and 3 points each everywhere else on the table.
Top honors went to Champion’s Award 1st Place winner, Team 1031 “Pigmice” from Portland, Oregon; and Champion’s Award 2nd Place winner, Team 1677 “Access 9” from South Bend, Indiana.