Thirty-six FIRST Lego League teams from Lincoln, Omaha, Iowa, Missouri, and Southeast Nebraska spent most of the day on Saturday, Jan. 6, at Nebraska City High School, competing for a chance to advance to the State FIRST Lego League tournament. The FIRST Lego League State Tournament will be held at the Strategic Air and Space Museum in Ashland on Feb. 17.
The FIRST Lego League is one of several FIRST projects that are designed to encourage youth think about careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).   
The acronym FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.  
FIRST has three programs that begin in kindergarten through high school that encourage students in the areas of science and technology.  
FIRST Lego League is designed for students in fourth grade through eighth grade.  Each year, FIRST Lego League releases a new challenge to the teams, which includes a project topic area, a robot game, and core values.  This year’s challenge was called “Hydro Dynamics.” The students had to identify a problem that currently exists in the human water cycle and come up with an innovative solution to the problem. The human water cycle describes the ways people find, transport, use, and dispose of water in order to meet a specific need or desire.  
The two Nebraska City Middle School Pioneer Bots teams brainstormed and identified two different problems to solve.  The Pioneer Bots Purple team designed a way to 3-D print PVC pipe-liners in one hundred year old water pipes.  The Pioneer Bots Gold team designed a way to collect and filter rainwater during hurricanes and thunderstorms to be used as drinking water.
The judges felt their project was “extraordinary innovative and would best represent Nebraska at a global level in innovation.”  The Pioneer Bots Gold team will present their project at the state tournament and be judged for an opportunity to represent Nebraska at Nationals.
The Nebraska City Middle School Pioneer Bots Purple team placed second overall and won the second place champions trophy.  The combination of their sixth place finish in the robot game, the quality of their project, their overall robot design, and their display of the core values impressed the judges.
The Nebraska City Middle School Pioneer Bots Gold team earned the Robot Design trophy. The judges look for teams with robot designs that stand out. Judges evaluate mechanical design, innovation, programming effectiveness and team strategies for solving missions to assess overall design quality. The judges said, “This robot used four sensor and completed seven missions in three legs.  This robot started out the season destroying the field but soon was back in the box and straightened out.”  The Pioneer Bots Gold team placed fourth overall in the robot game.      
Both Pioneer Bots Purple and Gold teams will represent Nebraska City at the State tournament on Feb. 17 in Ashland.
The tournament directors, and FIRST would like to thank the Nebraska City Public School administration and staff, Nebraska City Mayor Bryan Bequette for his welcoming remarks, and to all the volunteers for making the tournament successful.