Dean Kamen Recognizes Students for Innovative Solutions to Manage Effects of Natural Disasters in Fourth Annual FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Contest

Team from Massachusetts Takes Top Prize for Balloon-Based Notification Sign

MANCHESTER, N.H., June 3, 2014 – Students’ creative ideas for how to prepare, stay safe, and rebuild following natural disasters became award-winning inventions today at the fourth annual FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) Global Innovation Award ceremony, held at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, Va. Dean Kamen, inventor and founder of FIRST®(For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit organization that inspires young people’s participation and interest in science and technology, honored three  FIRST® LEGO® League  teams for their contemporary solutions during the ceremony which included parents, kids, Coaches, patent experts, Sponsors, and natural disaster experts.  

More than 500 FIRST LEGO League teams across the globe submitted their inventions for the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award, presented by XPRIZE.  A panel of expert judges reviewed the submissions, narrowed the list to three finalists, and then selected a winning team and two runner-up teams. The winning team received a cash award of $20,000 and the two runner-up teams each received $5,000.

WINNER – Balloon-Based Notification Sign by The Brain Busters of Sherborn, Massachusetts

The Balloon-Based Notification Sign indicates where to find aid after a natural disaster, when traditional infrastructure is not available. The large sign is suspended from a helium balloon that can be seen from very long distances and deployed in high winds, snow storms, and extreme cold.   

RUNNER-UP – Cyclone Survivor Board Game by the Robotic Raiders of Williamsburg, Iowa

Cyclone Survivor is an educational board game that uses federal and local information to educate players on how to prepare for, survive and recover from a tornado. The object of the game is to collect miniature Emergency Gear to place in the player’s Emergency Kit. The interactive tool can be customized to help educate students learn about other natural disasters such as ice storms, earthquakes or hurricanes.

RUNNER-UP – Tsunami Evacuation System by Robotec of Santiago, Chile

The Tsunami Evacuation System appraises disorientation and not knowing where to go in a tsunami, and changes the current signage by replacing it with retro-reflectors on roads and adding LED lights that will flash in sequence. Retro-reflectors would be placed on major streets in order to be seen by many people and emit three-color LED lights: red for high risk area, yellow for relatively rough area, green for out of risk. Lights would be powered by small photovoltaic panels on each site and connected to national systems to activate automatically to events that could cause a tsunami.

As part of the 2013-2014 NATURE’S FURYSM Challenge, FIRST LEGO League teams (youths ages 9-16) in nearly 80 countries were asked to explore natural disasters and develop innovative ways to mitigate the effects of these often devastating events. Teams were then encouraged to submit their ideas for a chance to win the fourth annual FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award.

“These students continue to amaze me with their ideas and passion for helping others. When young people are given a platform and support for exploring answers to today’s pressing social problems, they are able to create innovative solutions that will ultimately improve lives,” said Kamen, who is also president of DEKA Research & Development. “Today, they have shown that solving problems together is a fun, rewarding adventure.”

FIRST LEGO League partners with Award Sponsors to advance a common goal: fostering innovative problem-solvers. XPRIZE was Presenting Sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award for the fourth consecutive year. XPRIZE attracts the world’s top innovators and supports them in tackling the grand challenges faced by society.

“XPRIZE is honored to be the Presenting Sponsor of the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award,” said Alan Zack, Senior Director, Marketing & Communications, XPRIZE. “All of the finalist teams here today have proven that through competition you can create great results. Each of you came together as a team to produce something, and this teamwork was vital to your success. You may go on to solve the grand challenges, whatever they may be – and when you do, you will be doing it as part of a team.”

The FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award Partners in Innovation Sponsors include: Booz Allen Hamilton, John Deere, Rockwell Collins, International Association of Emergency Managers, and Qualcomm. Edison Nation is the Go-To Market Sponsor to help winning teams take their product from idea to store shelves. The FLL Global Innovation Award is presented in cooperation with the National Building Museum and the USPTO.

About FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®)

FIRST LEGO League (FLL) is an international program for 9 to 16-year-old children (9 to 14 in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico) 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 go on field trips.

The LEGO Group, Founding Partner of FIRST LEGO League, has supported the growth and success of FIRST LEGO League through ongoing funding and donations for more than a dozen years as the program has grown into a global competition. In the 2013-2014 FLL season, the program reached nearly 300,000 youth worldwide.

About FIRST®
Accomplished inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people. Based in Manchester, N.H., FIRST designs accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology, and engineering. With support from over 200 of the Fortune 500 companies and more than $20 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) for students in Grades 9-12; FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC® ) for Grades 7-12; FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL® ) for Grades 4-8; and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL®) for Grades K-3. Gracious Professionalism® is a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community. To learn more about FIRST, go to

Media Contact:

Haley Dunn, FIRST 
Ph. 603-206-2494