Desh Bagley never thought she'd host a tournament for the First Lego League, nevermind her third annual.
On Jan. 7, the owner of Tech Playzone in Riverview will once again host a First Lego League tournament, a clash of young minds given the task of applying science, engineering and math to solve a common problem using pieces provided by Lego.
"This is a great way for us at Tech Playzone to give back to the community," Bagley said. "If someone had ever told me I'd be hosting my third tournament I'd have said they were joking. But we need more tournaments in the Tampa Bay area and once (Hillsborough Community College) stepped up to partner with us, it became a reality."
The First Lego League is in its 14th season and is rapidly growing in the bay area. Where there were only two teams six years ago, there are now 24 in the area, two of which call Bagley's Tech Playzone home. In all of Florida, there are 200 teams that compete.
The league is open to kids in the 9-16 age group and creates competitions of 16 teams all around the state. The teams gather and display to a panel of judges their ability to work together to research a solution to a problem, build the solution and present it.
"They are judged not only on what they make but how they work together," Bagley said. "We have 16 teams coming from Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. It's like a sporting event because the competition is intense; we have music going and the parents are cheering, so it can get kind of crazy."
Rich Berglund is a coordinator of events for the First Lego League. He hailed Bagley's events for being as good as any and expects the excitement of what Lego is teaching kids to amaze the crowds that gather to watch.
"Its an explosion of activity for the kids and people who watch it," Berglund said. "When I was a kid, Legos were a box of bricks and you built little houses with it. With the NXT (robotics) side of it, they are using them to teach kids to do some amazing things and it's very economically feasible to start a team."
Last season, Bagley's team created a special shoe for multiple sclerosis patients to help aid them with fatigue. They came up with the idea after months of research with patients and doctors. This year, they'll face a new issue; food safety.
Competitors from more than 55 countries will explore the topic of food safety and examine the possible points of contamination our food encounters and then find ways to prevent or combat the contaminants.
For the last two years, Bagley's event has been held at the Brandon campus of HCC, but this year the school's new facilty, The Regent, will be hosting the gathering of minds. With state-of-the-art classrooms and a large all-purpose room, Bagley is excited about what The Regent has to offer.
For her team, which does not compete in the event it hosts, getting ready for what the competition is just as exciting as preparing to be in it.
"It's exciting because our team has gone to state each of the last two years," 14-year old Energy Elite team member Daniel Brown said. "It's really exciting and we enjoy just watching to see what the other teams do. There are a lot of different aspects to it, so there is a lot of competition."
The competition is full for this year's event, but the public is welcome to attend. For those interested in forming a First Lego League team, visit flrobotics.org.