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The FIRST® LEGO® League is a robot competition for youths aged 11 to 14. The competition is all about Research, Robotics and Core Values. Participants are introduced to a problem that scientists and engineers face today. They will try to turn this into concrete solutions by using robotics in LEGO! Geert Surkijn – business manager of Cats&Dogs – was asked 7 years ago to sponsor the FIRST® LEGO® League championship. He did not hesitate. He felt that there was a shortage of STEM profiles in the workplace. Who would have thought that local schools of Herk-de-Stad would be so successful? Geert didn’t, but he had been rooting for them every year.

Geert: “Winning a robot competition at the Benelux finals, feel free to call it historic! And their success doesn’t end yet because they have been selected for the world championships in April in Detroit,”. He adds: “I’m glad these kids from 11 to 14 years old are having such a fun adventure.” 

Playful learning

Similarly to Voka and several other companies, Cats&Dogs funded the Lego and robot parts. “In short, everyone starts with the same starter kit.” Geert said. “The combination of the Lego toys, the motors and radars stimulate their imagination and ingenuity.”

A Belgian team wins

The goal this year? Design a City Shaper robotic environment. In other words, how can we shape a better future for everyone? Each team gave a short presentation. The problem, the solution and the elaboration were presented here. Combine creative technology with a good dose of science and the robot that completes the most tasks correctly is the winner. Or like Howard Stern says, “I’m Tellin Ya, you’re going places!”

Last Saturday, team Ogel_SMS2 from Herk-de-Stad won a prize and was declared the best Lego robot builders of the Benelux! In the Breepark in Breda, 53 other teams acknowledged their superiority. For the first time, a Belgian team won the cup!

The value of an event like this

“The coaches and teachers are only there for support, not to suggest solutions themselves. That is exactly what I find so appealing about this competition.” Geert said. Thankfully, the realization is also slowly growing among both children and their parents that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) degrees equal guaranteed job fulfillment for the future.

As an IT company, Cats&Dogs knows how difficult it is – due to the high demand for technical profiles – to attract the right people. “And then preferably with a creative mindset,” Geert said. “These children have already learned to be creative, to persevere and to negotiate. These are the people that a company like ours really needs. I look forward to meeting these young people on the job in a few years! Maybe they will remember the name Cats&Dogs?” Geert said.

Hopefully, these enthusiastic young people will make history and win the world championship. This would give a boost to our Limburg economy! Meanwhile, Cats&Dogs is looking forward to the meeting in Detroit!