Students compete in challenge to build natural disaster relief robots

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Hundreds of middle school students have been working for months to compete in a competition that keeps future scientists and engineers in mind. The competition focuses on building robots, which could potentially help during natural disasters.

The students have worked for months, building and programing their robots to do all kinds of things. But make no mistake; these are definitely not your average middle school students. Many of them have big career aspirations, including working in the architectural engineering field, becoming pilots, or working on aerospace engineering, just to name a few. The winning team of the competition will get to go to the world championship in St. Louis.

In the competition, which took place at Union Station on Saturday, a portion of their points come from their robot’s ability to perform tasks related to natural disasters.

"Objects like the tsunami you have to flip a switch and it’s worth a certain amount of points," said one competitor.

And other points come from ideas and inventions designed to prevent disasters like fires, floods, avalanches and tornados.

The team from Benjamin Banneker’s Charter School has designed a micro dish that sits atop a storm chaser and measures the temperature inside a tornado.  Then a sort of laser blaster shoots cold or hot air mid tornado, in an effort to equalize the colliding pressure systems.

"It will raise the heat up either hotter or colder depending on the tornados temperature," said Ashlon Bryant, who is part of the charter school'd group, the Bobcaticians.

Time Warner Cable sponsored the event and is keeping an eye on the next generation of problem solvers.

"There are a lot of problems they are going to help solve cures for cancer and other disease.  Global warming; there is lots of things that science is the cure for that is a big reason we are involved in events like this," said Dave Borchardt, of Time Warner Cable.

And it’s not just about teaching the kids science and math, this competition urges a kind of sportsmanship they call gracious professionalism.

"That teaches us how to treat each other fairly, respecting others with kindness and having fun," said Tony Gant with the Bobcaticians team.

‘Science geeks’ is a term these beanie-wearing kids embrace because they know what they are currently learning with Legos and robots could just change the world.

The team advancing to the First World Festival in Saint Louis is the Earth Shakers; a team from Liberty, Mo. Teams from 50 nations will attend the festival.

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