Students compete with Legos and robots

April 1, 2009 4:30:47 PM PDT
The Galveston school district is struggling with a deficit, teacher layoffs and there is no money for any extras. Yet one group of fifth graders is taking a trip to a worldwide robotics competition. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

With the press of a button, the fifth grade students of Austin Middle School are learning about world climate and how the weather connects their city to others across the world.

The students have created their own world by using Legos and a specialized computer program.

They earned one of only 84 invitations to the Lego League World Robotics Festival this month in Atlanta, Georgia. They beat out over $100,000 other students worldwide. But there is another component. The kids won their coveted position under the incredible strain of having to recover from Hurricane Ike. By the time their school re-opened, they had only six weeks to prepare instead of the six months like their competitors. However the Austin Middle School students had a new level of maturity.

"When we had school in September and seeing the difference in the students when we returned in October was like night and day," said teacher Anna Romero. "They definitely grew up and I think they really understood the importance of life it wasn't just about the material things."

Jordan Alcocer, 11, is still without a home. Assigned to research the project, she learned something very comforting in the process.

"It was kind of easy seeing how many other islands or countries that and go through the same thing as Hurricane Ike," she told us.

With teamwork and a new level of concentration, the kids already have one Lego trophy that guarantees them a spot in Atlanta, they also have something else.

"We have a lot of luck," said Justin Tirpak, 11.

The competition is in two weeks and time is running out. After winning their spot in the competition, the kids had only six weeks to raise the $7,000 they'll need to take the team to Atlanta. So far, they are short about $3,000. If they raise the money, the kids will have nearly four days to compete and we wish them luck.

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