Students participate in a practice tournament to prepare for the Nov. 14 qualifiers. (Orcutt Academy photo)

The right to compete for regional honors will be at stake for 32 teams of young engineers at the FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Tournament Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015, at Orcutt Academy High School, 610 Pinal Ave, Santa Maria.

The only tournament of its kind on the Central Coast, it will send six teams to a regional tournament in Los Angeles, where hundreds of students will show their programming, planning and presentation skills to volunteer judges, many of whom work in local high-tech industries.

“Many of these teams came to our practice tournament in October, and now they are ready to take their best shot at a trip to the Regional Tournament,” said Ty Fredriks, a teacher at Orcutt Academy Charter School. Fredriks also represents the international organization FIRST Robotics on the Central Coast.

“The programming, problem-solving and cooperation students learn in FLL gets them excited about science and technology, and that gets our high school students even more excited about careers in science, technology and education.”

This year’s game, called “Trash Trek,” is challenging the competitors to find new ways to collect, sort and reuse trash.

“At an FLL tournament, you’ll see fifth-graders talking science with technology entrepreneurs,” Fredriks said. “It creates a lot of excitement and fun for everyone involved.”

This Saturday’s tournament is hosted by Orcutt Academy’s FIRST #3512 Spartatroniks robotics team. Hosting tournaments for younger students is part of Spartatroniks #3512’s mission to spread STEM education.

Admission to the tournament is free for spectators and concessions are available. The robotics competition area is on the campus of Orcutt Academy High School and Orcutt Junior High School. 

The opening ceremony is at 8:30 a.m., matches start at 9:30 a.m., and the closing ceremony is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Orcutt Academy’s FIRST #3512 Spartatroniks team comprises a dedicated group of over 40 students, mentors and a faculty advisor.