With “the force” on their side, team Jedi won the first-place Champions Award at the Fifth Annual Utah FIRST LEGO League State Championship at the University of Utah on Saturday, Jan. 31. The Jedi will advance to the FIRST LEGO League World Festival and FIRST Championship in St. Louis, Mo., in April.

The youth robotics and innovation program drew 297 teams across Utah this season. Teams consist of 9-14 year olds who build LEGO robots and develop innovation presentations. Team Jedi, of South Jordan, won the state championship after being one of 48 teams that advanced from 16 qualifying events across Utah.

“When you can see it all come together, and they are confident and polished, and they want to keep learning, it makes it all worthwhile,” says Michelle Estrada, coach of team Jedi.

Nicole Brooks, 15, is one of the Jedi team members. “I didn’t want to say we could win, but we had done a lot of work, and we learned a whole lot this season,” says the freshman at Jordan High School.
Utah’s FIRST LEGO League program is headquartered at the University of Utah’s Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, an interdisciplinary division of the David Eccles School of Business. The Lassonde Institute organizes the program to promote an interest in innovation and entrepreneurship among Utah children.

“This is an incredible program, and we are seeing amazing results as more people get involved and we inspire more kids to become scientists, engineers and inventors,” says Anne Bastien, the Utah operational partner for FIRST LEGO League and a program manager at the Lassonde Institute. “We invite anyone interested to join the program by creating a team. Team registration for the next season begins in May.”

During each of the championship and qualifying tournaments, the center stage consists of teams taking turns running their robots through a variety of challenges on a thematic playing field. But the robots are only part of the events. The teams also compete for robot design, innovation project presentation and “Core Values” awards. FLL “Core Values” include “what we learn is more important than what we win” and “gracious professionalism.”

This year’s theme of World Class challenges students to explore the future of learning. Students work on teams to redesign how we gather knowledge and skills in the 21st century. Teams then teach adults about the ways that kids need and want to learn. Each team prepares an innovative solu