Iowa FIRST® LEGO® League Team Wins Inaugural Global Innovation Award

A 3-year-old child born without fingers on the dominant hand is able to use a pencil, thanks to a device created by a FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) team comprised of all girls, ages 11 to 13.  The device earned the team, known as the “Flying Monkeys,” the inaugural FIRST Global Innovation Award, presented by the X PRIZE Foundation.

FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, today announced the selection of the winning team and runner–up teams of the Global Innovation Award, presented by the X PRIZE Foundation. All three teams will participate in a private awards ceremony in June at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Va.

The Flying Monkeys, a Girl Scout team from Ames, Iowa, will receive up to $20,000 from the X PRIZE Foundation toward patenting their invention, called the BOB-1. The team submitted an idea for a multi-functional, cost-effective prosthetic hand device that would enable users with limb abnormalities to hold, grip, stabilize, or secure items. The BOB-1 prototype is currently in use by a 3-year-old child from Georgia.  

“The winning team’s working prototype, which is already improving the life of a young child, proves that FIRST participants are making the world a better place with their creative problem-solving skills,” said President of DEKA Research & Development and FIRST Founder Dean Kamen. “Now with the help of the X PRIZE Foundation and the USPTO, the Flying Monkeys will receive the kind of support needed so more people can benefit from their invention.”

The two runner-up teams for the Global Innovation Award are: “The 4th Motor” of East Troy, Wis., and the “Blue Gear Ticks” from Lincoln, Mass., whose real-world solutions target children with diabetes and congenital heart defects, respectively.

“Kids are natural innovators, and FIRST kids are offering solutions to some very big, real-world problems,” said FIRST President Jon Dudas. “We see incredible ideas and inventions every year from our FLL teams, and now we can encourage them to make their innovations available to the public.”

Presented by the X PRIZE Foundation, in collaboration with the USPTO, the award offers global FIRST LEGO League teams the opportunity to submit innovative solutions to real-world problems, stemming from a yearly FLL Challenge.  

In the award’s inaugural year, 179 submissions were voted upon by the public and then judged by an expert panel to determine the most patentable ideas. Close to 400,000 public votes were cast by nearly one million people who visited the award website from 145 countries.

“It is wonderful to see hundreds of children submitting ideas to the Global Innovation Award, all of whom aim to improve the lives of others,” said Chairman and CEO of the X PRIZE Foundation Dr. Peter H. Diamandis. “We are proud to be cultivating the innovation process at the earliest stages, and we are honored to support the winning team.”

The award submissions were based on the 2010 FLL BODY FORWARD® Challenge, which tasked FLL teams in more than 56 countries to explore the cutting-edge world of bio-engineering and discover innovation ways to repair injuries, overcome genetic predispositions, and maximize the body’s potential with the intended purpose of leading happier and healthier lives.

“The fact that the Flying Monkeys’ prosthetic device is already in use by a young patient reflects its feasibility, usability, and public benefit,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “We are looking forward to hosting the winning teams and honoring them at the ceremony in June.”

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international program for 9 to 16 year-old children (9 to 14 in the U.S. and Canada) created in a partnership between FIRST and The LEGO Group in 1998 to get children excited about science and technology – and teach them valuable employment and life skills. Using LEGO® MINDSTORMS® technologies and LEGO Education materials, children work alongside adult Coaches to design, build, and program autonomous robots and create an innovative solution to a problem as part of their research project. After eight intense weeks, the competition season culminates at high-energy, sports-like tournaments. Like any other organized “sport,” teams also fundraise, create a team identity, and participate in field trips.

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