LEGO bricks at heart of engineering competition for kids

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SALT LAKE CITY — At the University of Utah Saturday, young people worked with Lego bricks to showcase their grasp of robotics and engineering.

Hundreds of students ages 9 through 14 from around the state traveled to the U. of U. to compete in the final leg of the Utah FIRST LEGO League.

Since September, they've been designing and building robotic LEGO creations in line with this year's theme, "Senior Solutions."

The teams have had their ideas and LEGO prototypes vetted by computer professionals and engineers over the past few months.

The competition is not just about mastering technology; it's also about engineering futures.

"Essentially, you have to be a problem solver, critical thinker, and they're learning this is something we can do as a real job," said Westfield Elementary sixth grade teacher and team "Beatbox" coach, Karre Nevarez. "I tried to make it very much like a true robotics, engineering software firm, where they all work together, and they all have to collaborate, but they all have different pieces to do."

The kids seem to grasp that, too.

"I really like this program because it will help me learn how to handle jobs in programming in the future," said team Beatbox member Hadley Peay.

That's just what organizers of this LEGO league want to hear. Their hope is that it will foster a love of science, technology, math and engineering as young students begin to think about their futures.

Team Beatbox took home the "Inspiration Award" for how well they worked as a team and with their competitors.

Team "Robo-Thunder" out of Park City took the first place trophy. They will travel to St. Louis in April to represent Utah at the FIRST LEGO World Festival, where they will compete against kids from Turkey, China and some 50 other countries.


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Keith McCord


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