A team of four Seaford children is set to compete in a Lego robotics world competition in St. Louis after winning the Long Island championships Sunday.
The Seaford Sea Lions will advance to the First Lego League Championship in April after beating out 39 other teams of children. The young competitors, ages 8 through 14, had to build motorized Lego robots that complete skill tasks, and propose ways to improve interactions between humans and animals.
“I’m shaking I’m so excited,” said Ashley Rice, a 10-year-old winner.
About 400 children tested their robots’ skills in the 13th annual competition held at Longwood High School in Middle Island and themed, “animal allies.”
The Sea Lions — Ashley, Jivan Ramesh, 8, Sarah Baker, 14, and her brother Sammy Baker, 12 — built a functional robot, designed a database and website for educating the public about possums, and studied whether education impacts perception of an issue. They presented their research wearing sea lion hats knitted by Sarah and Sammy’s grandmother.
Other teams studied how to prevent pets from chewing on wires, scare away coyotes, and warn wild animals about approaching humans.
With 15 prize categories, teams were judged not only on their technical skills, but also on their ability to work as a team and show “gracious professionalism.”
Runners-up from the competition will be selected to participate in the First Lego League World Festival in St. Louis, as well as invitationals at LEGOLAND in San Diego, and at the University of Arkansas.
A team of Jericho children, ages 6 through 9, will also participate in the World Festival after being selected from 69 teams that presented Lego models and research about animals at other events on Saturday and Sunday.
More than 255,000 competitors from more than 80 countries participate in Lego competitions hosted by FIRST, a nonprofit that seeks to get children interested in technology.
Linda Bernard, who coached a team from Buckley Country Day School in Roslyn, said the competition shows kids “they can make a difference.” Bernard’s group designed a drone that seeks to divert elephants away from areas with humans in the wild and plans to have her relatives in Malawi and Zimbabwe test the prototype.
“The project aspect of it is so important because it gives us a chance to learn about what’s going on in the world,” said Bernard, head of the Upper School at Buckley.
Other teams also went beyond just doing research by building prototypes and volunteering for organizations that help animals.
Lorie Siegel said her son’s team, the Goosebusters, has been talking with Huntington officials about ways to remove goose droppings from town parks and plans to help plant flowers in Heckscher Park.
“It’s amazing . . . to see them grow and change and become involved in their communities,” said Siegel, who coached the team.