FARMINGTON — The team of students who took first place in Maine’s First Lego League challenge in December is taking its programmed robot, laptop and props to a national competition on May 18 at Legoland in San Diego, Calif.

The team known as The Smoke Busters is from Mt. Blue Middle School and Cascade Brook School in Farmington.

For months last winter, they researched teen smoking and studied the latest cures and treatments for people suffering from smoking-related diseases. Their readings took them to research to develop prosthetic lungs in London to work to regenerate damaged cells and to nanotechnology — the science of building devices, such as electronic circuits, from single atoms and molecules.

They have also been assisted by faculty from the University of Maine at Farmington.

On Tuesday, the team performed its humorous skit on how “uncool” it is to smoke for students at Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon.

“There are so many things I have learned about the lungs that I never knew about,” seventh-grader Grace Andrews said as she was helping set up the display. “We have learned about nanotechnology, we’ve gone to a science lab at (the University of Maine at Farmington).”  

“If we can get one kid not to smoke, that would be great,” she said.

Other team members are Mitch Guillaume, Dylan Roberts, Ben Andrews, Alex Morrell and Nicole Pires. Coaches are parents Ellen and Jan Roberts and Linda Beck.

Ellen Roberts said the competition at Legoland will involve the top winners from across North America.

“I think we have a good chance, though. We’ve redesigned our robot to be more efficient and accurate. We’ve worked on our skit and have done more research,” she said.

“We won the state contest based on our innovative design and on our presentation of the research so I think we will be OK.”

The Farmington team took first place in the 11th annual competition held in December at the Augusta Civic Center, winning over 48 teams of students ages 9 to 14. The Legoland tournament will include 76 teams.

The 2010 First Lego theme, “Body Forward,” requires teams to select a body part, system or function and research biomedical engineering work being done by scientists, engineers and doctors to improve, repair or heal those parts that are diseased or damaged. Students also have to suggest their own innovative solutions to the problem and share it with their community through skits, talks and presentations.

Teams, working with parent and volunteer coaches, build a robot and program it using patented Lego software so it can accomplish about 15 biomedical-related “missions” laid out on a regulation, 4- by 8-foot playing field table within 2.5 minutes.

Team members are working hard to raise the $10,000 they need to transport the six team members, three chaperons and all their gear. So far, they have about $8,000 still to raise, but they are determined to meet their goal, Ellen Roberts said.

Their next fundraiser will be at a community yard sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, April 23, in the parking lot in front of the Farmington District Court building on Main Street, an event sponsored by the Farmington Downtown Association.

“This educational challenge will allow us to engage at an even higher level and bring the knowledge we gain back to our community and to Maine. Our work demonstrates to all students that math and science is fun …,” according to a fundraising letter.

“Lego League teaches teamwork, creativity and problem-solving skills which can be used throughout our careers and enhances the future of our state,” it states.

For information, call Roberts at 778-3726. Donations are tax-deductible and can be sent to:

Smoke Busters Lego Robotics Team

c/o Franklin Savings Bank

197 Main Street

Farmington, ME 04938

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