Brielle Wolfe, left, and Isaac Baumert of the Colfax County Automatons watch a robot they helped build and program during Saturday's First Lego League competition at Columbus Middle School. The regional event featured more than 30 teams.

Julie Blum, Lee Enterprises

COLUMBUS — Isaac Baumert cupped his hands over his mouth as he waited to see whether his team's creation would work as planned.

The programmable robot built using Lego bricks moved across the table and paused at an obstacle. It didn't perform as expected.

Baumert let out a groan of disappointment, then made some adjustments with the help of teammate Brielle Wolfe as the First Lego League competition continued.

The two are part of the Colfax County Automatons, one of more than 30 teams that took part in Saturday's robotics event at Columbus Middle School.

Youths ages 9-14 competed in the regional event by showcasing robots they built and programmed. The robots had a limited amount of time to perform different tasks related to water systems, matching the competition's hydrodynamics theme.

This is the second year the Colfax County team has taken part in the event, which focuses on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills.

Team members are able to utilize what they learn in the classroom and build on that knowledge, said Julie Kreikemeier, a coach of the Colfax County Automatons along with Scott Reiner.

“I want them to have fun and I want them to understand that there is more to science and math and engineering than what you learn in the classroom," Kreikemeier said. "This is taking what you learn in school, the same math and science principles, but putting them in a completely different context."

Team members, who also include Ryan Brichacek, Jayda Kingston-Sucha, Wyatt Kluck and Bryan Scott, said they learned how to work together while meeting at least once a week since September to create and program their robot.

That's only one part of the competition. Teams also must come up with a project for the theme. The Colfax County team made a water purification machine.

Projects are presented and judged, then combined with the robotics scores to determine the winners. Teams that place high enough qualify for state.

The Lego Ninjas from Platte County received first place in the robotics portion of Saturday's event and will advance to state along with the Nance County 4-H team. A total of 12 teams advanced to the state competition set for Feb. 17 at the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum.


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