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NI STEM robotics team takes on the world

by DEVIN WEEKS
Staff Writer | February 19, 2024 1:07 AM

FIRST Lego League robotics enthusiasts from North Idaho STEM Charter Academy will be using their skills for communication, collaboration and innovation as they pursue world domination.

The Los Cuatro Amigos team of eighth graders will compete in the 2024 FIRST Championship from April 17-20 in Houston. The aspiring engineers and scientists will pit their robotics prowess against teams from countries such as India, Brazil and China.

“It’s exciting because a team hasn’t gone from our school in 12 years and it’s a big opportunity,” Los Cuatro Amigos team member Reagan Smith said Wednesday.

“We’re representing the whole state of Idaho," said her teammate, Kaylee Barnhart. "It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology — Lego League engages children ages 4-16 in hands-on learning that involves science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students gain experience through guided robotics programs that teach them how to solve real-world problems. FLL students participate in friendly competitions as they research, code, build and program robots to navigate missions on special robotics mission tables.

Members of Los Cuatro Amigos have been involved in FLL since elementary school.

“We’re working on all these things — the robot, the innovation idea — all of it together as a team, bouncing back ideas from each other and collaborating on our ideas,” team member Amelia Freeman said.

North Idaho STEM Charter's FLL coordinator and Los Cuatro Amigos coach David Moon said he is proud of his students.

“They’re very competitive,” Moon said. “They really strive to want to do better each time. We’ve gone through school competitions, regionals, the state competition, and they’ve really tried to up their game every time. Friendship is a big part of it."

Echoing that sentiment, Kaylee said FLL is all about friendship.

"Through our FLL journey we’ve all become closer friends," she said. "We’ve all had our trials and interesting issues, but we’ve all figured them out and we normally get rid of them by laughing. We don’t have a lot of conflict and if you do, it doesn’t last more than a day, because we’re all really good friends.”

Team member Emmett Hernandez said he wants to be an engineer or graphic designer someday. He is looking forward to showing off his team's robotics chops at the world competition.

“It’s a really cool opportunity to show our knowledge of robotics and to be able to be creative and show our ideas," he said.

    From left, North Idaho STEM Charter Academy eighth graders Kaylee Barnhart, Amelia Freeman, Reagan Smith and Emmett Hernandez show off recent FIRST Lego League trophies at their school Wednesday. The young robotics enthusiasts will compete against teams from around the world at the FIRST Championship in April in Houston.
 
 
    Emmett Hernandez and Amelia Freeman, North Idaho STEM Charter Academy eighth graders, stand with their FIRST Lego League robotics table Wednesday as they show how they have programmed their robots to complete certain tasks.