I have been involved with FIRST LEGO league for over ten years. Lately it has been as a judge at the local and state level. Last weekend and this weekend were the local tournaments that qualify teams to move to the state tournament. It was a long day of interacting with teams. As a technical judge, I grill the teams on programming, mechanical, and strategy for the robot they built to solve the year’s missions.
It was great fun to see the teams this year. Unfortunately I am pretty sure that my fear regarding programming has become real. A few years ago, LEGO stopped providing a software language that allowed a team to get deeply involved in programming. The NXT-G language they came out with hid many details and dumbed down the interface. A simple icon now does what 20 used to do. As a result, the kids have little incentive to learn advanced skills. The programs I saw today were pathetic compared to what was being produced by teams 5 years ago. It was a sad day.