500 Students Take Part in SD FIRST LEGO League Championship

Augustana hosted the third annual South Dakota FIRST® LEGO® League Championship on Saturday, Feb. 25, in the Elmen Center. The event featured a special video tribute to Dr. Dan Swets, Kevin Anderson '87 and Joshua Lambrecht, league leaders who were killed in a plane crash near the Sioux Falls Regional Airport on December 9.

More than 500 students from 62 teams across South Dakota – including 38 teams from Sioux Falls alone – competed at the event, a competition where middle school students (ages 9-14) design, build and program an autonomous robot to accomplish prescribed missions on a 4x8 playing field. Teams also gave presentations on research projects illustrating how they’ve tackled a problem and proposed a novel solution.

Prior to his death, Swets, who served as president of the South Dakota Robotics Association and a partner at the South Dakota FIRST® LEGO® League, was actively planning for the event – one many have dubbed “a sport for the mind.” Learn more about Dr. Swets.

Event Photos
View photos from the event.

“The basic premise is that if what our culture values and emulates is movie stars and sports heroes, why can’t we make science just as cool? That’s our basic philosophy. We encourage kids to explore science and engineering through fun, hands-on learning that’s driven by competition. It gives kids something to work for, and the tournaments make them feel like rock stars,” Swets said earlier this year.

His widow, Robyn Swets '07, picked where her husband left off. She coordinated the event along with Cindy Anderson, the widow of Kevin Anderson.

“Each and every one of these kids has amazing talents. Yet, for many of them, this will be the first time they’ve ever heard a crowd cheer for their accomplishments,” Robyn said. “It’s a fantastic program that not only exposes kids to the wonders of science, it also builds self-confidence and helps forge great friendships. It’s an honor to continue the event in Dan’s memory.”

Kelly Sprecher
Communications & Media Relations