Blacksburg robotics team to offer workshop to newcomers

Photo by Henry Bass
The Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies will provide guidance for FLL teams at the March 3rd FLL All-Day Workshop at the Pulaski County Youth Center.

Lisa Bass
Contributing writer

The Tuxedo Pandas FIRST Tech Challenge robotics team is offering a FIRST Lego League workshop at the Pulaski County Youth Center on Saturday, March 3.

FIRST stands For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, encouraging STEM through robotics competition and project-based learning. The FLL targets students from fourth through ninth grade, approximately ages 9 through 14 years old.

This all-day event will give interested students, parents and teachers a chance to experience the most fun elements of the FLL robot building and programming in preparation of a competition.

Adult and children participants will get a thorough overview of what to expect when forming or joining an FLL team. For existing FLL teams or members, there will be workshops to enhance programming skills, teamwork, and usage of multiple sensors.

Individuals or groups of friends can attend for a morning of instruction on how to build a robot with a Lego Mindstorms NXT kit and to program it to complete missions in assembled teams.

Parents and educators are encouraged to participate in adult teams to gain knowledge on how to inspire kids into the next batch of STEM learners, and possibly form a new FLL team.

After lunch, there will be a competition among these newly formed teams in a kid division and adult division to get a sense of real STEM fun.

For any current FLL teams, morning workshops will be organized by members of the Tuxedo Pandas and the local FLL champions Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies.

Instruction will focus on sensors and programming tips to improve their current robot and the completion of more missions.

Tips to enhance team building and research projects will be offered. After lunch, teams will demonstrate their new skills on this year’s challenge table, Hydro Dynamics, in a mini FLL off-season tournament.

This FLL workshop day is open to the public for participation in the actually building and programming of robots in the PCYC facility on Riverlawn Court in Fairlawn. Registration is required to ensure enough robotic and computer equipment is available.

Participation is free as a partnership between the Tuxedo Pandas and the PCYC. A pizza lunch and snacks will be offered for sale. More information can be obtained from and pre-registration must be submitted by February 24th to

Workshop organizer, Isabelle Marchand, said, “Tuxedo Pandas would love for more kids in our area to join the fun of FLL. The FIRST program is made to inspire kids to learn about STEM using robotics as a fun tool.

At the FLL level, kids are using Legos and a Mindstorm Kit. It encourages them to love science and technology, teaches them presentation skills, and self-confidence.”