Students throughout northern Santa Barbara County will flex their math and engineering muscles this weekend in a practice FIRST LEGO League tournament.
Twenty elementary and junior high schools from Orcutt, Santa Maria, Guadalupe and Santa Ynez will compete with robots they built with help from student mentors.
“We’re trying to increase the excitement for STEM education, Spartatroniks faculty adviser Ty Fredriks said.
This year, he said, the 40 Spartatroniks members were able to mentor more schools via a $10,000 grant from the Fulton Family Foundation.
Last year’s event boasted just six teams. No teams from last year were from Guadalupe, while this year the town’s Mary Buren Elementary and McKenzie Junior High will participate.
This also marks the first year that the Spartatroniks will host two tournaments.
Saturday’s tournament is its first practice event, and a qualifying tournament to determine which teams move beyond the local level will take place at Lakeview Junior High on Nov. 17.
Teams from Santa Barbara and Culver City will compete in that tournament.
On Monday night, Orcutt high school students created last-minute sign holders and organized supplies.
LEGO League leader Grace Douglass, a senior, said it’s been great to mentor and inspire students doing what she loves.
Preparing for the Lego tournaments also keeps the high-schoolers busy during the off-season, Douglass said, since the FIRST Robotics League season lasts January through March.
“It’s a good way to teach our new folks,” Douglass said. “We had a lot of interest from schools. It’s a practice community event.”
Douglass said the high school program hopes to attract more students during its third year. The team made it to the national championships last year.
“They really try to keep their focus on learning,” Douglass said. “It really keeps us together. It keeps us active.”