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Budding young engineers win at global FIRST® LEGO® League World Festival

108 teams from around the world took part in the global World Festival with team Glic from Wallace Hall Academy winning an award for their robot and their coach, Neil Corrigan, scooping the Best Coach Award.

A team of young engineers from Wallace Hall Academy in Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, have for a second year in succession won a prestigious award at the World Robotics Festival in Detroit.

The World Festival saw the top 108 from 40,000 teams go head to head in competition. This year’s Glic (Gaelic for ‘wise’) team is made up of Olivia Andreasen, Alex Bramley, Emily Cochran, Sorcha Corrigan, Abi Fletcher, John McKay and Luke McKay. They were awarded third prize at the World Festival for the innovative mechanical design of their robot.

FIRST® LEGO® League, which is a science and technology challenge aimed at 9-16 year olds, tasks teams to build a robot to tackle a series of missions, and create an innovative solution to a real world problem. This year’s INTO ORBITSM challenge was all about space – how humans survive for extended periods in this environment.

Lowri Walton, FIRST® LEGO® League IET Education Manager, said: “FIRST® LEGO® League allows young people to experience engineering in action. As well as bringing excitement to STEM subjects, the students get hands-on experience with robotics, and designing innovative solutions to real world problems. Developing computer programming, teamwork, problem-solving and communications skills has never been so much fun and gives students an insight into the creative and innovative careers that engineering presents.

“There is a great need for young people with STEM skills to fill the next generation of engineering roles and we are excited to see such bright young engineering minds in FIRST® LEGO® League. I am delighted at how well our brilliant teams performed at the World Festival, they have represented the IET and the UK and Ireland like true professionals, and they should be incredibly proud of themselves”.

Emily Cochran, one of Team Glic’s members described her experience: “I have never even been abroad before, so just going on an aeroplane was a huge step for me. Then to meet so many people in America from around the world was more than I had ever imagined. At the same time though, I don’t think I have ever worked so hard. My big role was to demonstrate the invention we had created alongside our robot, which was a vacuum that could attach to an astronaut’s wrist to grip objects that would otherwise float away without gravity. This can be really dangerous in space – could you imagine breathing in a screw while you were asleep? Our idea was really well received by everyone who saw it, including judges who saw a presentation we had prepared about it.”

Neil Corrigan, Glic’s Team Coach and Principal Teacher of Design and Technology at Wallace Hall Academy said: “The seven members of team Glic performed way beyond my expectations. They were a brand new, much younger group than last year, so we had much less experience than other teams. As Scottish champions, they really did their country proud. They had several tasks to complete throughout the week in Detroit and they tackled these with enthusiasm and positivity, with this approach really paying off. Team Glic worked tirelessly for months to be ready, involving the whole school and our wider community in their preparations. They set up a stand in the streets of Thornhill with their robot to share exactly what is involved in international robotics competitions and have been real champions in terms of representing their community, Dumfries and Galloway and their country. They have really highlighted the importance that Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics plays in education and beyond.

“The robots on display in Detroit were of an exceptionally high standard and to be placed third globally in such a prestigious category at the world championships is an enormous achievement and a real credit to the team. It was a stunning bonus for me to also receive the top coach award which reflects the attitude and ethos of team Glic. On behalf of everyone in team Glic, I would like to thank all our generous sponsors including Drumlanrig Estates, Oakbank Services, The Galloway Motor Cycle Club, Thornhill and District Rotary Club, Nithsdale Stoves and Anderson Kilts as well as so many other individuals who supported us in our journey. We are very grateful to every single person who has helped us in any way.”

John Blair, Acting Head Teacher at Wallace Hall Academy added: “These were tremendous achievements for Mr Corrigan and team Glic. I was very proud to see Wallace Hall Academy pupils and staff shine whilst competing against the best teams in the world for the second year in succession. This is testimony to all of the hard work that is put in across the school and to the support received from the wider community.”

The event in Detroit was the culmination of competition amongst a third of a million individual participants across 98 countries of the world and attended by thousands of young people who were all keen to demonstrate their skills in robotics, computer programming, teamwork, research, problem solving and communication.

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