Hundreds of middle school students sent their Lego robots into battle Saturday at Sacramento's Inderkum High School in a competition to see which creation could complete the most tasks.
Students came from 48 schools in 15 Northern California counties. The teams spent months building their robots from scratch and programming them.
At the end of the day, the Folsom DYNObytes claimed first place. The team of eight students came from a variety of schools and grade levels in the Folsom area. The Eggheads, a team from Petaluma, placed second.
The Folsom team advances to the state competition, to be held in May at Legoland in Carlsbad, north of San Diego.
Parents and students shared in the excitement of the competition.
"It's science. You want to inspire kids," said parent Vani Kakarla, who was cheering on her daughter Vinootna, 13.
Vinootna's seven-member robotics team from Fallon Middle School in Dublin was called Challenge Accepted.
"It's a race car design, has four wheels and we use it to do missions," Vinootna said, describing the team's robot.
The competition is sponsored by FIRST Lego League, a nonprofit that uses educational programs to engage middle and high school students in science and math.
The league is a partnership between the organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and the Lego Group, maker of Lego products.
"We're having a blast," competition organizer Heidi Buck said during Saturday's event. "How fun it is to be a nerd."
Many of event volunteers were former FIRST Lego League competitors, Buck said. The league's inaugural competition was in 1999.
Each robot is judged on design, teamwork and its ability to complete assigned tasks. Once the robot leaves the start line, no one is allowed to touch it. The robot is expected to move on its own, based on computer programming.
Eric Smith of Meadow Vista explained how competitors are expected to program the Lego robot to do certain tasks.
"You can program the number of wheel rotations or make it follow a line," said the 13-year-old Weimar Hills School student.
One task, he said, involves pushing a Lego flag up and traveling on a ramp. The robots have 2 minutes, 30 seconds to complete all the assigned tasks, and are judged on the quality and the number completed.
Buck said some of the teams have applied for their own patents.