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UK students named World Lego Champions for designing new earthquake victim tracking device for natural disaster-prone areas of the world

30 April 2014


Three 14-year-olds from Canterbury have been crowned World Champions of the FIRST LEGO League (FLL), which is organised in the UK by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). Their innovative design of wristbands to track civilians buried under earthquake rubble means that a UK team has secured the top prize in the global competition for the second year running, proving that there is no shortage of raw engineering and technology talent in the UK.

Oli English, Emma English and Carlos Purchase-Galarza – known as Team Invicta – won a place at the World Festival by winning the FLL UK National Final, organised by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). They went on to beat off competition from 80 teams representing 32 countries at the FLL World Festival in St. Louis, USA on Saturday 26 April.

Talking about the project, Carlos said: “In a study, it is noted that deaths occur from buildings collapsing on top of civilians, particularly in developing areas, such as Medan [Indonesia] where the infrastructure of the city is poor and buildings collapse easily. However, most of the deaths resulted from when people were stuck under rubble and did not get found for long periods of time.

“An indestructible box would be placed on the top floor of buildings, so when the building collapsed, it would fall and ‘sense’ the earthquake, then send a radio wave out to the wristbands people wore. On receiving the transmission, the wristbands would switch on to full power and send a wave back to the box of their area, which would now have all the information of the user.”

Barry Brooks, President of the IET, said: “It’s fantastic news that a UK team has won the global final again. There are expected to be 2.74 million job openings for engineers and technicians in the UK before 2020, so inspiring the next generation and making sure they have the right skills to deliver important engineering projects and innovations is crucial. It’s clear from the FIRST LEGO League result, and particularly how yet another British school team has set an example, that there is no shortage of raw talent in the UK. We now need to make sure that employers, Government, teachers and even parents work together to make sure we harness that talent and enthusiasm to produce a pipeline of properly skilled engineers who can help boost our economy.”

This year’s competition – entitled ‘Nature’s Fury’ – challenged teams made up of 9-16 year olds to find a solution to tackle the effects of natural disasters. Team Invicta invented a hi-tech wristband for those affected by earthquakes, designed to help rescue workers locate people trapped under rubble using radio waves.

Each team, made up of 9 to 16 year olds, were also tasked with designing and programming a LEGO MINDSTORMS robot. The robot had to then solve a range of problems and tasks. Teams were judged on their ability to build and programme the robot, their presentation and research skills and how well they cooperated with each other and their competitors.

In the UK, each school had 8 to 10 weeks to prepare for one of the 24 regional events which took place across the UK and Ireland in 2013. The UK FLL National Final took place at Loughborough University in February of this year, where 29 teams battled it out with Team Invicta winning the trip to take part in the FLL World Festival.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology is the operating partner of FIRST LEGO League in the UK, as part of the Institution’s aim to introduce young people to the excitement of science, technology and engineering.

Media enquiries to:

Robert Beahan
External Communications Manager

Tel: +44 (0)1438 767336
Mob: +44 (0)7595 400912
Email: rbeahan@theiet.org

Notes to editors:

  • FLL is a global science and technology competition with over 250,000 young people taking part each year.

  • Interview opportunities are available with IET spokespeople from a broad range of engineering and technology disciplines including cyber-security, energy, engineering skills, innovation, manufacturing, technology, transport and women in engineering.
  • The IET is one of the world’s largest organisations for engineers and technicians.  We have nearly 160,000 members in 127 countries around the world.
  • The IET is working to engineer a better world. We inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community, supporting technology innovation to meet the needs of society.
  • The IET is the Professional Home for Life® for engineers and technicians, and a trusted source of Essential Engineering Intelligence® and thought leadership.
  • For more information, visit www.theiet.org
  • Follow the IET on Twitter.