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      Houghton Elementary students prepare for Lego robotics competition

      Many of us grew up building castles and cities with Legos, but some Houghton Elementary students are taking it to the next level by building Lego robots.

      The team, made up of three fifth graders and one fourth grader, has worked since September on a natural disaster preparedness project for the Lego Leagues Robotics competition.

      ??Different things that families might get into in a disaster,?? explained fourth grader, Isabella Kangas. ??Maybe not just a tornado, but any disaster, and they??re just little things that you can practice on doing.??

      The robot has been programmed to capture items, push buttons, and move unassisted. It reflects different services needed in a community after a disaster. Teams are judged on teamwork, research, robot design, and robot execution.

      After gaining one of three bids out of the regional competition in early November, the team is taking their robot to the state competition in Flint on December 14.

      ??We??re looking to step up our game a little bit,?? said Lego Leagues Robotics coach and parent, Robert Landsparger. ??We expect the scores to be probably 50 to 100 percent than we were seeing in Marquette. So, we worked on combining missions and adding new things.??

      But for the students, it??s more than just tinkering with toys. They??re learning valuable lessons in teamwork and technology. They??re even learning a bit from their research, too.

      ??I thought that if you opened the windows that the windows wouldn??t shatter,?? said fifth grader, Nash Landsparger. ??That??s not true. If you open your windows, they probably will shatter.??

      After the competition is over, the team plans to put what they??ve learned onto their Facebook page so others can be prepared for when disaster strikes.

      ??We??re going to make this sticker that you can print off our website, so they can put it in a box and put everything in the box that they need,?? Nash said.

      ??Then they know what to do when it??s happening, and they know what to do when it happens and before it happens,?? Isabella added.