Minnesota 7th graders to compete in international Lego robot tournament

A group of six Minnesota 7th graders are now on their way to compete against teams around the world in the FIRST Lego League Challenge

The tournament brings together teams of students ages 9-16 to compete in coding and engineering by building and programming a Lego robot that performs several missions in a robot game. 

The other part of the challenge tasks students with participating in a research project in which they identify and solve a relevant real-world problem. 

Artificial Intelligence, the Minnesota team, tells Fox9 they began with more than 30 different ideas for its project before landing on what they call their "Relief Rover." The amphibious rover has been designed to help deliver emergency supplies to those in disaster relief zones. 

"It was challenging to figure out how are we going to make it float if there's a flood? How are we going to make it go over rough terrain? How can we figure how buoyant it is?" Says Siena O'Keefe, one of the Artificial Intelligence team members. 

Siena and teammates Braeden Armstrong Johnson, Ben Yehl Kennard, Omera Syed Asif, Ben Farrell, and Ana Yanz have been meeting every Saturday since August to work on this project. They say it took several trials to get them to the competition, and to their final Rover model. 

"Once we got to the aluminum model that was really cool because it was made of metal and strong. The PVC model was kind of squeaky and flimsy and held together with rubber bands. the aluminum model was just so much better, and it's really cool to watch it and work to build it," said Ben Yehl Kennard.

The rover is inspired by the MARS Rover, and uses bin, like a shopping cart to carry supplies. Through equal and opposite force mechanisms, the rocker and bogey of the rover balance out so it won't tip over when going over rough terrain. 

"This is one of a kind. There has never been any invention to help people in disaster zones," said Omera Syed Asif.

The team wanted to make this affordable to those that may need a rover like this, so they designed it with a simple push, and chain pull system. 

"A lot of people are in disasters every day and we needed something that could be affordable for people to assemble, and easily transportable too," said Siena O'Keefe. 

The team, now heading to worlds, hopes to start working on a patent to for their rover. 

The team has started a GoFundMe to help cover the travel cost for them to go to the tournament, As of publication, they've raised about $6,000 of the $12,000 they need.