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Teams Inspired by Iconic Inventor Dean Kamen Score Big in SA’s FIRST Lego League Tournament
November 24, 2009

When internationally known inventor Dean Kamen accepted BioMed SA's Julio Palmaz Award in September, his inspirational message on the urgency of introducing America's youth to science and technology struck a chord with many of the 350 San Antonians in attendance.

In fact, two local bioscience company executives heeded his call to action by going home that evening and forming robotics competition teams with their elementary school children, in conjunction with Kamen's national non-profit organization, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

Both teams were winners at San Antonio's inaugural FIRST Lego League (FLL) qualifying tournament this past Sunday, Nov. 22, at the Witte Museum and will advance to the Central Texas Championship Tournament in Austin Dec. 12.

The Robonauts from Leon Springs Elementary, organized by Dr. Todd Fruchterman of KCI, his son Shane, and Wendy K. Brake, the school's Gifted and Talented specialist, won the overall Champion's Award at the San Antonio tourney.

Meanwhile, the Randomists, organized by CEO Ian Clements of ViroXis Corporation and his daughter Nia from the Montessori School of San Antonio, took first place in Overall Robot Performance and second place in Teamwork. The Randomists are sponsored by BioMed SA, a non-profit organization that promotes San Antonio's biomedical industry.

"FIRST answers the need we have for inspiring kids' imaginations through technology," said Dr. Fruchterman. "Innovation is what drives a society. Kids need to be exposed to practical application of science and technology and realize that science is just as cool and just as fun as playing sports."

Proud dad Ian Clements of ViroXis added, "We saw it as a way for our 9-year-old youngsters to get actively involved in technology and problem solving and being able to present in front of their peers and work as a team. These are lessons that the earlier you learn, the better you will be as an adult in terms of being able to research and deliver a message."

This year's competition, for students ages 9-14, focused on solving transportation challenges through the use of student-programmed robots. The event was sponsored by the Texas Institute for Educational Robotics (TIER) at Northwest Vista College under the leadership of Andrew Schuetze. Teams were judged in four categories including robot design, robot performance, research, and teamwork.

Photo Caption
Proudly displaying their FIRST Lego League awards in Overall Robot Performance and Teamwork are the Randomists from the Montessori School of San Antonio, including from left, George Anderson, Nia Clements, Max Ulmer, and Thomas Anderson.  Seated is team sponsor Ann Stevens of BioMed SA. (Photo by Corey Levenson)

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