State Lego championship Saturday at Foundation for Youth

Legos become far more than tools for play Saturday when Purdue Polytechnic Columbus hosts the First Lego League Southern State Championship at Foundation for Youth, 405 Hope Ave. in Columbus.

The public is encouraged to watch the competition portion of the event in person beginning at about noon, or as it is streamed live via a link on the Purdue Polytechnic Columbus Facebook page.

Thirty-one teams of fourth- to eighth-graders from around the state, including three squads locally, will compete for a spot in the World First Lego League Competition, to be held in St. Louis, Missouri, later this year. About 240 students will compete Saturday, according to organizers.

“The growth of this program has been so great,” said Joe Fuehne, director of Purdue Polytechnic Columbus.

Local schools competing will be Smith Elementary, Parkside Elementary and St. Peter’s Lutheran.

Saturday’s teams represent the top-placing teams from eight qualifying tournaments across the state, which held competitions in November.

In First Lego League, children are immersed in real-world science and technology challenges. Teams design their own solution to a current scientific question or problem and build autonomous Lego robots that perform a series of missions or challenges.

Through their participation, children develop life skills and discover career possibilities while learning that they can make a positive contribution to society. This year’s theme is “Animal Allies,” how can animals and people work together to accomplish things.

“Our sponsorship of First Lego League is a natural fit to our mission to educate the next generation of problem solvers,” Fuehne said. “By involving our campus faculty and students with First Lego League, we allow young students to see that the skills they are learning while having fun are the same skills they can cultivate as part of their career, and that we have the experts in our area who can help with that objective.”

Teams typically are organized at local elementary schools and consist of six to 10 students and one or two volunteer mentors who meet with teams two to three hours at a time for two or three days per week.

Robotic challenges

What: First Lego Southern State Championship.

When: Team presentations about their robots and more begin at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. Competition will begin at about noon and stretch until 4:30 p.m.

Where: Foundation For Youth, 405 Hope Ave. in Columbus.

Watch online: Facebook page of Purdue Polytechnic Columbus.