A group of seven homeschooled students from Oxford Hills will compete in the North American Open Championship FIRST Lego League robotics championship this spring in California.

The Trail Hounds team of the Oxford Hills Homeschool Robotics Club were invited to represent Maine after taking the second place Champion Award in the state competition last year.

Nancy Lynch of South Paris, who homeschools her children, Caleb and Amber, said that about seven years ago, a group of homeschooling parents in the area wanted to teach their children robotics and subjects related to science, technology, engineering and math.

Around the same time, Lynch said, her son was attending a robotics camp in Auburn so she and several other parents started a robotics club. She learned about Maine Robotics, a nonprofit dedicated to providing Maine youth and teachers with mentored activities within the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

Lynch also learned about the FIRST Lego League, a program in which teams research a real-world problem and are challenged to develop a solution. They must “design, build and program a robot . . . and compete on a table-top playing field,” the website said.

The theme for 2016 was Animal Allies.

Lynch said the team decided to research the problems that dogs encounter when hiking with their owners, including getting injured and getting lost. They designed a safety vest for dogs that contains first aid supplies and a tracking feature that helps owners find them, and a website to share the information.

They also developed an education website, hikesafer.com, to share the information.

The championship is scheduled for May 19-21 at Legoland in California for students from the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Lynch said she and club are trying to raise funds to cover registration, plane tickets, hotel fees and other expenses.

“We have a goal of $15,000, and we have just under $500 right now,” Lynch said.

The team will be at the Norway Snowshoe Festival, Feb. 10-12, to compete in some of the events, Lynch said, in addition to selling handmade dog treats and toys.

“We decided to stick with the dog theme in making the toys,” she said.

The students are also offering to do handiwork for residents in exchange for donations.

“The kids said they’re willing to work their way to California,” Lynch said. “If someone needs their wood stacked, their lawns mowed or shoveling done, they can email us at [email protected] and our kids will do it.”

Lynch said the seven students have expressed a mixture of excitement and nerves in the lead-up to the competition.

“Some of these kids have never traveled outside of the state, let alone to California,” she said. “They’re still very excited about the opportunity they’ve been given. Even now, they’re still working on the project and tweaking it to bring everything up to a national competition level. I thought they’d get tired of it, but they’re still working hard.”

Those wishing to donate to the Oxford Hills Homeschool Robotics may write a check to OHH Robotics and send it to P.O. Box 282, South Paris, ME 04281.

For more information, go to ohhrobotics.com/trailhounds, or email [email protected]

[email protected]

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