The 2016 FIRST® LEGO® League Arabia Open, the largest regional robotics competition in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, took place this past weekend at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon. More than 50 teams of children from eight Arab countries competed in this year’s 'TRASH TREK Challenge,' working to find solutions to the world’s waste problem.
The TRASH TREK Challenge asks teams from all over the world to explore the hidden but fascinating world of trash, from collection, to sorting, to smart production, and reuse. In teams of up to 10 members in grades 4 to 8, the children must research a real-world problem related to waste and develop a solution, as well as design, build, and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® to compete on a table-top playing field. Some teams earn an invitation to FIRST LEGO League World Festival held in St. Louis, Missouri.
“For the TRASH TREK Challenge, trash is any item you are done with and want to dispose of, whether it’s an old pen, ruined clothing, food scraps, or something completely different – we all make some kind of trash,” FIRST LEGO League Project Manager Jinnel Choiniere explains in one of the challenge videos.
This challenge is especially compelling for teams based in Lebanon, where for more than eight months, the capital city of Beirut has been congested with numerous unsanctioned public garbage mounds.
“Young people throughout our region must come to understand the critical importance of sustainability and be inspired and encouraged to make an impact. Studies in science, technology, engineering, health, and environment are just a few among many longer term directions they can take in pursuit of helping to create a better community,” said Ramez Shehadi, the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Booz Allen Hamilton MENA.
“This is not just the case in Lebanon or the region, but across the world – we are all faced with profound sustainability challenges that are impacting our access to clean water and renewable energy and which are only further complicated by the issue of efficient waste management. We must continue to identify ways to create meaningful engagement with our youth – empowering them and enabling the progress they deserve.
“The FIRST® LEGO® League is a tremendous example of an inclusive, challenging and exciting initiative that rallies young minds around a real world problem they are all intimately aware of. I look forward to understanding more about the solutions brought forward.”
The FIRST® LEGO® League Arabia Open is organized annually under the supervision of the Arab Robotics Association, an organization formed of FLL Operational Partners in the MENA region. This was the second successive year that the event was hosted in partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton. Participants benefitted from direct interaction with senior Booz Allen consultants.