On Tuesday 25 April 2017 a group of eight Year 10 students from Magherafelt High school travelled to St Louis, Missouri, USA to represent Northern Ireland in the FIRST LEGO League World Festival, 26-29 April.

The team, also known as the ‘LEGO Workshop Wonders’ had previously won the Northern Ireland Regional Heat held in W5 Belfast on 2 December 2016, and then went on to win one of the four main awards at the UK & Ireland Final in Bristol in February 2017. Their success secured the team an invitation to compete at the World Festival against the top 100 teams from all over the world.

The pupils picked up a special judges award at the World Festival in St Louis, where they were recognised as the ‘Most Improved’ team in the competition, as well as performing strongly in all of the judging categories.

FIRST LEGO League is a global Science and Technology challenge involving over 33,000 teams of 9-16 year olds. It aims to encourage an interest in real world issues and develop key skills that are crucial for their future careers, particularly in STEM subjects. The Magherafelt High School students worked together to explore this years’ theme which was ‘Animal Allies’, through which they developed an innovative solution to help vets, pets and owners stay connected. The team came up with the unique idea of using an app to allow pet owners to keep in touch with their vets while their pets are in care. It also aimed to help vets make contact with pet owners to alert them if their pet was due vaccinations or to be wormed.

As well as completing the research project, teams are judged on their ability to work together and compete fairly displaying the competitions’ Core Values. In preparation for the competition, teams must design, build and program an autonomous LEGO robot to solve a series of missions, and score the highest possible number of points in under three minutes. This involved many hours of building, programming and testing the robot under the guidance of their teacher and a mentor from one of the team’s sponsors Caterpillar (NI) Ltd.

The trip was an amazing experience for all the pupils who gained a huge amount of confidence and were given a unique insight into the world of engineering and technology. Magherafelt High School would sincerely like to thank all the sponsors who made the trip financially possible. The school was also very pleased to welcome Arlene Foster and Keith Buchanan on Thursday 4 May who visited to congratulate the team on their success in representing Northern Ireland on the world stage and learn more about FIRST LEGO League.