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Robots are the core of a technology competition that blends creativity and fun

It was a battle of robots.

But it was also about teamwork, creativity – and fun.

When the FIRST Lego League competition wrapped up Saturday afternoon inside the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School on Franklin Street, one team out of the five that competed moved on to the next level of competition.

But all participants had a memorable day.

“The hardest part was talking to the judges,” said Jordan Knupfer, a ninth grader at the science academy, and one of the contestants at the event. “There was a little pressure.”

Some participants even said the day helped them firm up career ambitions.

“I think I’m going to be going to college for mechanical engineering,” said James Clark Jr., 14, of Holland, who competed on the “Robosaints” team.

The FIRST Lego League – or “FLL” – contest challenges participating teams to work with robotic components to solve problems and innovate new technology, all while working well as a team, organizers of the Buffalo event said.

The competition is a worldwide event.

“The overall goal is, first, for inspiration,” said Mucahit Polat, a technology teacher and robotics team coach at the charter school. “It’s inspiring kids for science and technology.”

The event on Saturday, which lasted several hours, was a first-round contest of the competition.

Winners from this level will go on to the next round of the contest, in Rochester, organizers said.

A final championship event will be held in St. Louis in the spring.

The competition was not held in Buffalo last year, but two years ago a similar event was held at the charter school, said Mustafa Ersoy, director of the school.

“We are a school emphasizing STEM education,” Ersoy said. “For our students, it’s really big. We figured out this is a great opportunity for our kids.”

Students from Buffalo as well as outlying areas were among those competing, organizers said.

Awards went to teams from the Buffalo Academy of Science and the “High Tech Hornets” of Oakfield-Alabama, according to Staci Cameron, outreach and event coordinator for the charter school. The Hornets will move on to the next round of the contest, she said.

The challenge of this year’s event was “Nature’s Fury” – leading students to consider situations such as cleaning up from a natural disaster.

“It really teaches them responsibility, it teaches them teamwork – they have to work together to achieve a goal,” said Cameron, of the FLL event. “It teaches them time management.”

A team from the Our Lady of Hope home school group in Buffalo showed off their creation, a robot with moving arms operated by a central control center.

“We had to build something that would complete all these missions,” said Sophia Clark, 12.

As far as a career in engineering or technology? “I’m definitely considering it,” she said.

Polat, the robotics coach at the charter school, said the creativity demanded by this sort of challenge – in which students have to solve problems by working together – is high.

But, he said, so is the fun.

“It’s tough,” he said. “But it’s very rewarding.”