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Saint Paul students are leveling up their education with Legos

Students across the state are preparing for a competition where they create autonomous robots to help solve real-world issues.

SAINT PAUL, Minnesota — Minnesota students are leveling up their education with Legos ad in Saint Paul. these kids and teens are using tiny toys to solve real-world problems.

"I would say three to four times a week; I'm building with Legos." 

Elliot Amos is just one of the many 8th graders at Capitol Hill Magnet School building for a better future.

Teams of students are ready to enter the FIRST LEGO League Challenge State Championships at the RiverCentre in Saint Paul on Sunday, Feb. 12. 

Kids and teens build and program autonomous robots to complete missions and battle for the highest scores.

There are a few categories: core values, robot games and an innovation project where you devise a solution.

This year, the task centers around energy.

"So we use something called hydrothermal carbonization, which is taking biomass and turning it into hydro char and using the heat and steam and using it into a district heating system," explained Amos.

The 4th-grade team, the Lego Llamas, is focusing on something cooler. "Our project, we're doing ice expansion. We use the power of ice expanding to create energy," said one of the students.

All the tech talk aside, the competition teaches students important fundamentals like discovery, innovation and fun.

"It's a big deal for the kids. I think they worked really hard, over 100 hours probably for each team in developing their robot and programming the robot and developing their project. So they're pretty excited to show off what they've learned," said Cheryl Moeller, Executive Director of HighTech Kids. Moeller also notes that the competition propels students into STEM careers. "A lot of them credit their own success in STEM based on what they tried when they were in 4th grade doing the FIRST LEGO League."

For 8th-grader Ben Berger, the competition gives him an avenue to pursue his interests. "I've always been passionate about researching and engineering and finding a thing that allows me to do both is exciting."

The general event and team-specific schedules for robot matches and judging can be found here.

Local companies and STEM nonprofits will share hands-on activities and local innovation at the Innovation Fair from 12:00-3:00 p.m. in the Exhibit Hall.

Both events are free and open to the public.

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