Thirty-one teams from across Indiana, including three locally, descended on Foundation For Youth in Columbus on Jan. 28 to compete for a spot in the FIRST Lego League’s World Festival.

Students from Columbus’ Smith, St. Peter’s and Parkside elementary schools were among the more than 250 team members that competed in the FIRST Lego League Southern State Championship, hosted by Purdue Polytechnic Columbus.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) provides students with a real-world problem that teams are expected to solve using science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The competition at FFY was a chance for winning teams from the last year’s eight qualifying tournaments to square off.

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Students in Grades 4-8 worked together within their team to design, build and program a robot using LEGO Mindstorms technology, according to the FIRST website. Teams then pitted their robots against opponents on a table-top playing field.

“The competition was wonderfully chaotic,” said Joe Fuehne, director and associate professor at Purdue Polytechnic Columbus. “They (students) display teamwork, inspiration, spirit and good sportsmanship (which FIRST calls Gracious Professionalism).”

The Smith team, “Smith Sonic Cyborgs,” placed first in the presentation category.

The winning team overall, of Indianapolis students called the “Flashlights,” received an invitation to the World Festival in St. Louis in April.

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Kaitlyn Evener is an editorial assistant for The Republic. She can be reached at kevener@therepublic.com or 812-379-5633.