Campaigners in Ireland are concerned that the Lego Leagues are represented again this year at the Galway Science and Technology Festival which is taking place at the moment and will continue until November 21. http://www.galwayscience.ie/node/39
Although not an official sponsor of the Galway science festival, BAe is participating in the festival events through its official sponsorship -- which is largely hidden from the public eye - of the Lego Leagues. Lego Leagues have also been established in Britain according to this info from last year on a website linked to the Galway Science Festival:
“The national finals of the First Lego League have taken place as a major event in the Festival for the last two years and on both occasions the winners have won through both the national competition and the UK and Ireland competition, going on to compete at full international level”. http://www.galwayec.ie/support2.php?ID=3
British Aerospace Engineering has since earlier this year been the world’s largest arms company . I’m sure that Indymedia readers in the UK will be aware that the arms company has probably the worst record of any corporation in the world for bribery ,corruption and political interference –the latter to the point where the final act of Tony Blair before leaving office in 2007 was to grant the arms company immunity from prosecution on bribery charges it was facing at the time which involved the Saudi Prince Bandar and his family.. Since 1985, BAe Systems has signed £43 billion worth of arms contracts with Saudi Arabia. Blair intervened personally to stop the fraud squad investigation into claims that BAe contracts were agreed in return for payments totaling £1 billion to Prince Bander. To justify letting BAe off the hook Blair claimed that a prosecution wasn’t in Britain’s “national interest”. For extensive Guardian investigation of the BAe corruption scandal see here:
LEGO: then and now
I suppose a lot of men of my own generation would have come across LEGO blocks when they were kids. LEGO block model-building was often encouraged, particularly in middle-class families , as an educational tool - a preparation for the adult world of work for boys : in a typical 60’s household scene on TV you’d see the future engineer building model houses , fire engines etc out of LEGO blocks while his sister was learning how to do the washing-up in her dolls house.
In the 21st century the Denmark-based LEGO Group continues to emphasize the supposed educational benefits of its plastic blocks. It promotes itself today as a responsible, equal-opportunities company, with its own Lego Educational division “…..committed to the development of children's creative and imaginative abilities through high-quality, creatively educational play materials.” Lego Educational’s promotional material boasts that it, “........develops educational solutions for children and students from 1½ to 16 years and beyond, including special brick sets, curriculum activity packs, teacher guides and programming tools.”
Many parents and teachers will be unaware and would I think be shocked to discover that Lego Education works in partnership with BAe , which sponsors the FIRST Lego League (FLL) .The arms giant and the children's toy manufacturer work together to teach kids – both boys and girls nowadays - how to design motorized UAVs and robots in FLL "events" . World-wide, 147,130 children are signed up to the BAe-funded league in teams usually of around ten. FIRST , “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”, operates in 56 countries and promotes itself as a sort of a “sport for the mind “ with team events taking place in “ a pumped-up environment with music and excitement” according to LEGO’s own publicity . In these events team members are encouraged to use FIRST buzz-terms like “Gracious Professionalism” and “Coopertition” to describe the virtues of “respect towards one's competitors and integrity in one's actions” that the youngsters are purported to develop as they design motorized robots and working UAVs .A Junior FIRST LEGO League inculcates similar virtues – “friendly sportsmanship, learning, and community involvement” - in children aged six to nine.
On the FIRST website, Mike Heffron, President of Information Warfare, Electronics and Integrated Solutions at BAe, explains why Europe’s biggest arms manufacturer is interested in sponsoring the play activity and education of thousands of children throughout the world:
“Our involvement in FIRST LEGO League is an essential piece of the company’s commitment to the community and education. I believe it is BAE Systems’ role to help develop a passion for science, mathematics, research, and teamwork within students. They are tomorrow’s leaders, scientists, and engineers.”
– Mike Heffron, President, Information Warfare, Electronics and Integrated Solutions, BAe
The paper plane flying competition for infants and juniors sponsored by Aer Arann at Galway this year and pictured at the second link below is in fact one of the many “fun” initiatives Lego has come up with to introduce children to aerodynamics - you can even make your own LEGO paper plane launcher out of Lego blocks . This youtube video shows you how: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD2Zu3NrlM4.
As money for public education dries up during the present economic slump parents and teachers , and school students themselves , need to be warned that corporations like BAe are stepping in to fill funding gaps. In America BAe offers scholarships to school students who have been on FIRST teams and wish to go on to study robotics and related sciences at a more serious level at university departments , which are themselves increasingly being funded by BAe and other arms companies . According to FIRST’s publicity, “FIRST scholarships enable students to pursue majors and careers in engineering, computer science, science, math, design, aeronautics, and many other fields.” http://www.usfirst.org/aboutus/content.aspx?id=508
The insidious corruption of children's play by the world's biggest arms manufacturer should be exposed if it can’t be outlawed. The BAe -sponsored LEGO Mindstorms system, when combined with advanced programming and circuit design, are used to develop prototype robots that are then developed into more robust drones .Children in the west are unwittingly being sucked into a system that designs the type of machines that are currently killing kids in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The link below shows how BAe is utilizing the system of "Lego block" UAV design for the construction of real drones.
"BAE Systems is also proposing an interesting concept designated "Reliant Mauser" that envisions a "modular" or "Lego block" UAV design. A simple tactical UAV would have a boxy fuselage, with propeller propulsion in the nose, straight wings, and a vee tail. An endurance UAV would use the fuselage and the vee tail, with longer wing and a small turbofan between the tailplanes instead of a piston engine. Other configurations would involve twin fuselages with piston or turbofan propulsion. The pieces of the "kit" would mate together with standard mechanical, electrical, and digital interfaces, with a common flight processor able to automatically compensate for changes in configuration."
You can see the sort of sophisticated systems-control capability of the simple LEGO blocks system at these youtube links
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz5k-FIH8RE&feature=related" title=" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz5k-FIH8RE&feature=related"> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz5k-FIH8RE&feature=related
Anti- war campaigners frequently emphasize graduate involvement with the arms trade. What many do not realize is that , thanks in no small part to Lego , such graduate recruitment to BAe now often comes at the end of a process of brain-washing that starts when children are very young .Science teachers as well as parents need to be warned about Lego Leagues and the connection that BAe has made with primary education through these leagues .The arms giant is following the progress of children from as young as six : from primary schools through secondary and then third level and post-graduate education.