Iowa FIRST LEGO League Team Wins Inaugural Global Innovation Award

FIRST Press Release

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

X PRIZE Foundation to give all-girl team up to $20,000 toward patenting invention; United States Patent and Trademark Office to recognize winning team and runners-up at awards ceremony

MANCHESTER, N.H., April 18, 2011— 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.

About The X PRIZE Foundation
Founded in 1995, the X PRIZE Foundation is the leading non-profit organization solving the world’s greatest challenges through creating and managing large-scale, high-profile, incentivized prize competitions that stimulate investment in research and development worth far more than the prize itself. The organization motivates and inspires brilliant innovators from all disciplines and socio-economic sectors to endow their intellectual and financial capital for the benefit of humanity. The X PRIZE Foundation conducts competitions in four Prize Groups: Education & Global Development; Energy & Environment; Life Sciences; and Exploration. Past prizes include the $10 million Ansari X PRIZE for sending the world’s first private vehicle into space and back; and the $10 million Progressive Insurance Automotive X PRIZE for creating safe, affordable, production-capable vehicles that exceed 100 MPG or energy equivalent (MPGe). Active prizes include the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE, the $10 million Archon Genomics X PRIZE, and the $1.4 million Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X CHALLENGE. For more information, visit

About the United States Patent and Trademark Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)
is the Federal agency for granting U.S. patents and registering trademarks. In doing this, the USPTO fulfills the mandate of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8, of the Constitution that the Executive branch "promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries." The USPTO registers trademarks based on the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3). Under this system of protection, American industry has flourished. New products have been invented, new uses for old ones discovered, and employment opportunities created for millions of Americans. The strength and vitality of the U.S. economy depends directly on effective mechanisms that protect new ideas and investments in innovation and creativity. The continued demand for patents and trademarks underscores the ingenuity of American inventors and entrepreneurs. The USPTO is at the cutting edge of the Nation's technological progress and achievement.

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 three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and close to $15 million in college scholarships, the not-for-profit organization hosts the FIRST® Robotics Competition (FRC® ) and FIRST® Tech Challenge (FTC® ) for high-school students, FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL® ) for 9 to 14-year-olds, (9 to 16-year-olds outside the U.S. and Canada) and Junior FIRST® LEGO® League (Jr.FLL™) for 6 to 9-year-olds. 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

FIRST®, the FIRST® logo, FIRST® Robotics Competition, FRC®, FIRST® Tech Challenge, and FTC® are registered trademarks, and Gracious Professionalism™ is a common law trademark of the United States Foundation for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST®). LEGO® and MINDSTORMS® are registered trademarks of The LEGO Group. FIRST® LEGO® League, Junior FIRST® LEGO® League, FLL®, BODY FORWARD®, and Jr.FLL™ are jointly held trademarks of FIRST and The LEGO Group.


Media Contact:

Shana Benzinane , FIRST
Phone: 603-206-2482