More than 100 youngsters teamed up to talk trash at Rialto Middle School last week during the Inland Empire’s Qualifying Tournament for the FIRST LEGO League Trash Trek Challenge.
But students going head-to-head didn’t necessarily “run their mouths” while taking on the competition, instead they used brain power to tackle opponents as well as science, technology, engineering and math.
Now in its second year and hosted by Rialto Middle School’s Robotics Club, the event brought out more than a dozen teams from throughout the region to participate.
Each year, as part of the FIRST LEGO League competition, children ages 9-14 take on a different global challenge to research for the event. This year’s theme focused on solid waste management — from collection, to sorting, to smart production, recycling and reusing — teams were tasked with finding innovative solutions to improve their community.
As preparation for the for “Trash Trek,” Rialto Middle School’s team kept things close to home and surveyed the campus cafeteria.
They watched peers filter through the school cafeteria during three lunch periods to see just how much food was being consumed and what was going to waste.
Their findings were shocking, said event organizer Rod Campbell.
They were able to fill a large dumpster with three trash bags from the tossed lunch items, he said.
As a result, the students set a goal to meet with the cafeteria workers to discuss lunch options so less food is wasted.
“It’s all about problem solving,” he said.
In addition to the research, this year’s competition also pitted teams against each other in a variety of categories requiring robots crafted out of LEGO Mindstorm set to efficiently complete a set of specific STEM-based tasks— with trash management in mind.
Robots as trash compactors, trucks for recycling — all were wired to rid waste.
Winners of the robotics challenge will go on to compete in the upcoming LEGOland champion tournament.