Lakeland, Winter Haven to Host World’s Top Student Robotics Teams

Some of the world’s best young talent in robotics will gather in Polk County in May to compete in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League World Invitational Open Championship, hosted by the University of South Florida Lakeland and presented by All Saints’ Academy, Legoland Florida, and the technology sponsor AT&T Inc.

Scheduled May 3 to 6, the event will showcase robots designed, built and operated by 9- to 14-year-old students.  The event will include 66 teams from around the world, including 28 states, 19 countries, and five continents.  Anticipated attendance includes approximately 550 competitors and 2500 spectators.

FIRST has sponsored robotics competitions for 14 years and is considered the premier robotics event. It created the FLL (FIRST Lego League) competition to inspire 9 to 14 year olds. Combining the various levels of competition across the year, more than 200,000 students compete.

The annual events draw technology fans from all walks of life, including Bill Gates, who has identified robotics as the area of technology that will see the greatest advances in the coming years. At a 2010 FLL event, Gates encouraged the competitors and shared with them his experience with supportive teachers and programs in his youth (link to view:

In Winter Haven, the event will feature students from as far away as Japan with robots that translate this year’s theme: Food Factor, a real-world challenge that shows children how scientists, engineers, government agencies, and food producers work together to find solutions in keeping our food safe.

The competition will encourage children to use their imaginations and creativity in combination with science and technology to make food safer to eat, tackling issues from exposure to insects and creatures, to unsterile processing and transportation, to unsanitary preparation and storage.

Only qualifying tournaments and championship teams get to go to the Invitational Open Championship, and hosting an Invitational Open Championship is by invitation only. USF Polytechnic applied to host the event and teamed up with All Saints’ Academy to house the competition.

Beyond providing a competition for building the best Lego robot, the FLL program aims to show kids how exciting science, technology and engineering can be.

“Research and problem solving are integral parts of these fields and keys to the success of any real-world engineering team,” says David Touchton, USF Lakeland’s interim regional chancellor. “This event allows participants to have a firsthand opportunity in proposing a solution to a problem they selected. “

The FIRST Championship is normally held in conjunction with the FIRST Robotics Conference, which covers a wide variety of topics in science, technology, engineering, and robotics fields. Teams for each program compete in tournaments at state and regional levels. The winning teams from those tournaments join the global competition at FIRST Championship.

“The FIRST Lego League World Invitational Open Championship being hosted by USF Polytechnic is a momentous event for Central Florida.” said Marshall Criser, III, AT&T Florida president. “One of only three unique robotics competitions in the world, these events creatively connect students to critical science, technology, engineering and math curriculum in a applied and interactive ways”

For more information about the event, including a link to frequently asked questions, visit and for more information about FIRST Lego League visit

Schedule of events:

May 3 – Paradise Gala (Open to participants and media only)
5:30 p.m.

Lake Mirror Complex

Participants will complete a scavenger hunt, festival games and educational activities, and then end the night watching a performance by the local band Pop Glow. An educational building will include representation from Legoland Florida, NASA, and other educational activities offered by local companies.
May 4 – Opening Ceremony and Competition (Open to the public)
8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

All Saints’ Academy
Winter Haven

Ceremonies will include a parade entrance of all 66 teams with team flags; a welcome from David Touchton, interim chancellor, USF Polytechnic; a check presentation from AT&T; and remarks from Hortense Burt, NASA’s educational coordinator, and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam.

May 5 – Competition and Medal Ceremony Fiesta (Open to the public)
8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

All Saints’ Academy
Winter Haven

Competition each day will include judging sessions in the areas of robot design, core values, and project, as well as autonomous robotic competition rounds. The fiesta (for teams and families only) will include a ceremony to give each team member a medal for participation, and a dance party with DJ.

May 6 – Award Ceremony (Open to participants and media only. Reporters who wish to attend must get prior approval from Legoland.)
9:30 a.m.

Legoland® Florida
Winter Haven

Speakers include David Touchton, interim chancellor, USF Polytechnic; Adrian Jones, general manager, Legoland Florida; and Marshal Criser, president of AT&T Florida. Highlights include a presentation of the grand champion’s trophy built out of Legos by Legoland Florida’s master builder, and a private ski show.  Following the ceremonies, teams will finish their day enjoying Legoland Florida’s attractions.