LEGO, robots and STEM – oh my! DC hosted more than 400 students at FIRST LEGO League Championships

Imagine having to solve some of the unique urban planning and city building challenges that face our society today using nothing but LEGO robots? That’s what more than 400 of Ontario’s brightest young minds did on January 11 as they competed in the annual FIRST® LEGO® League Ontario East Provincial Championship. With help from their coaches and encouragement from family and friends, teams of students, ages nine to 14, showcased their creativity, innovation and STEM skills at Durham College’s (DC) Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre at the Oshawa campus.

Known by its acronym that means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, FIRST is a U.S.-based, not-for-profit public charity that inspires young people to be science and technology leaders. During the competition, teams first presented research projects to judging panels before unleashing their robots, which the students designed, built and programmed using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology.

This year’s challenge CITY SHAPER, taught students about building the cities of tomorrow and preparing public spaces for everything from traffic jams to natural disasters. While students were on campus, DC’s Dr. Elaine Popp, vice-president, Academic also encouraged them to think about the broader connections between what they do each year at these competitions and how it might lead them to future STEM opportunities.

“At Durham College, we are proud to train many of the city shapers of tomorrow – our future architects, tradespeople, engineering technologists and technicians,” she shared with the young students. “As you compete today, and continue on your path towards a future that includes post-secondary education, always remember the incredible value of your curiosity and drive to succeed. Your participation is the first brick in a whole city of possibilities.”

Dr. Popp was also on hand for the FIRST Tech Challenge the following day to deliver welcome remarks and accept a plaque of appreciation from Mark Breadner, president of FIRST Robotics Canada, which was awarded to the college for its ongoing support of the organization and its educational programming.

At the end of a weekend filled with fierce and fun competition, team Five LEGO Bricks from Richmond Hill was crowned the winner of the FIRST LEGO League East Provincial Championship and was awarded an opportunity to compete at the World Championship being held in Detroit, Michigan from April 28 to May 2.

As a gold-level sponsor and host of FIRST LEGO League, DC offers students what is often their first experience in a college environment and helps them to envision where their passion for robotics, technology and engineering can take them to pursue a post-secondary education.

For more information about FIRST LEGO League, please visit