San Francisco

Lego Robotics Teams Win First Face-Off at Google, Head for Silicon Valley Regionals

Coding is the name of the game for the Robot Spartans of East Palo Alto

As the youth robotics team makes a few emergency repairs, one coach explains that some of their Lego parts were confused for toys. For the Robot Spartans of East Palo Alto, Legos are much more than toys.

After a preliminary round at Google, those Legos are now taking the team to First Lego League's Silicon Valley regional competition Saturday.

The Lego building blocks are built into robots that can complete missions, Cristina Becerra, seventh-grade captain explained.

"There’s three parts to the game,” Becerra said. "There’s the robot part, which is all those missions. We have the project, which is a real-world problem, and you try to solve it. And then the other part is core values, which is how you are with your friends and people."

Becerra’s programming helped land the team a spot among some of the top teams competing in Silicon Valley for the first time.

"One team for regionals gets to move on, and those teams that move on get to go to the world championships," Becerra said.

With 32,000 teams in 88 countries, First Lego League brings tech-savvy youth out to compete worldwide.

"I’m really proud of the kids and hope they have a lot of fun and feel proud to represent East Palo Alto and make a good showing out there," Robot Spartans coach Matt Pizzimenti said. "I think it opens some doors just going to a higher level of competition so we’ll see what some of the really advanced teams are capable of, and I hope it’s inspiring to our kids."

Pezzimenti sees involvement with the group as a possible entry into more advanced robotics work in high school or as adults.

"The reason I do it is because it is fun, and they’re about the age I was when I started learning how to program, and I had a lot of fun at that age," Pizzimenti said. "It would be great to see some of them do that in high school and go on to careers in software, hardware engineer, that kind of thing."

One team from Silicon Valley will advance to the championships after the regional competition in Morgan Hill.

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