200,000+ Kid Scientists Take on Food Contamination in FIRST Food Safety Challenge

FIRST® LEGO® League announces details of its 2011-2012 FOOD FACTOR® Challenge during National Food Safety Education Month

MANCHESTER, N.H. — (BUSINESS WIRE) — September 6, 2011FIRST® LEGO® League students from around the nation are headed back to school, tackling an ambitious challenge just in time for September’s National Food Safety Education Month: to research food contamination – from exposure to insects and creatures, to unsterile processing and transportation, to unsanitary preparation and storage – and propose solutions for preventing or combating these contaminates.

Photo by Shana Benzinane, courtesy of FIRST.

Photo by Shana Benzinane, courtesy of FIRST.

FIRST LEGO League, which operates in 61 countries around the world, is one of four programs within inventor Dean Kamen’s not-for-profit organization FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). Kamen founded FIRST 20 years ago to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

In the FOOD FACTOR® Challenge, teams will build, test, and program an autonomous robot using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® NXT to solve a set of food safety missions as well as research, develop, and share their innovative solutions to improve the world’s current food preparation processes.

Television personality, author, and celebrity chef Mary Sue Milliken believes FIRST LEGO League students’ research will help advance education and greater awareness of food contamination issues.

“Food safety is a brilliant theme for FIRST LEGO League because we eat every day, and it is that very ‘fuel’ affecting all the cells in our bodies,” said Milliken. “Kids love learning about food — and I’m excited to see the inventions they create to solve problems that my industry faces.”

National Food Safety Education Month, which aims to heighten awareness of the importance of food safety education and training, is an annual campaign by the National Restaurant Association. Now in its 17th year, the month-long campaign highlights food safety tips and practices from the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe Food Safety training and certification program, which is the foodservice industry’s most widely recognized program that has issued 4.6 million certifications to date.

“Food safety education is key to serving safe and delicious meals, and getting students involved early on is a great way to lay the foundation for a future culture of food safety in any setting where food is cooked and eaten,” said Clay Hosh, instructional design manager for the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe. “The nation’s one million restaurants serve 130 million customers daily, making food safety the highest priority for our industry. We look forward to seeing what these young, creative minds will come up with, and hope to inspire them to join us in their future careers.”

13 Years of Themed Challenges

Every September, FIRST LEGO League releases a themed, three-part Challenge based on a real-world scientific topic applied through a ‘ Robot Game,’ a ‘ Project,’ and a signature set of FIRST LEGO League ‘ Core Values,’ which are the overarching way in which the Challenge is completed.

“There is no shortage of creativity among FIRST LEGO League teams,” said President of DEKA Research & Development Corporation and FIRST Founder Dean Kamen. “The FOOD FACTOR Challenge should bring some new and exciting ideas to the table.”

FIRST LEGO League teams of up to ten children, with one adult coach, participate in the Challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game) and developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project). Past Challenges have been based on topics such as biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, climate, quality of life for the handicapped population, and transportation.

“Like every season’s Challenge, the details of the Robot Game are related to the theme,” said Jacob Kragh, president of LEGO Education. “In FOOD FACTOR, robots are tasked with the safe transportation and preparation of food, exploring pest control, food temperatures, and pollution as they navigate from the various starting points of our food to the place where it is consumed.”

After eight intense weeks, the FIRST LEGO League competition season culminates in high-energy, sports-like tournaments around the globe. In April, more than 30,000 participants, volunteers, and spectators gather to celebrate top teams at the annual FIRST Championship, held at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. FIRST® LEGO <

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