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Students on a mission to excel

Building robots and accepting missions may sound more like something out of a James Bond movie than your regular school day.

For eight sixth graders at the Math and Science Academy, Woodbury Crossing, however, robots and missions are a part of their everyday life.

The team -- named the Flash Fighting Yodas -- just returned from the High Tech Kids First Lego League International Open at the University of Minnesota, coming 10th overall among 64 teams from around the world.

"They did awesome -- they did so well," said parent Mary Jo Brown, who has been coaching the team since September.

"This is my first year [coaching] and I couldn't have asked for a greater bunch of parents. Everybody pitched in...

"We're already talking abut next year. It's such a neat program for kids. My son didn't know anything about programming and he learned so much."

The challenge completed by all the teams was issued back in September last year, and students worked to solve the "power puzzle" over the intervening months by researching alternative energy.

They then programmed their robots, before having to complete various "missions" within 2.5 minutes at the tournament.

In one section of the competition, the Flash Fighting Yodas were teamed up with students from Israel, Kentucky and Michigan, coming second in that part of the event.

And the name?

"Part of the team wanted to be the Yodas, and the other part wanted it to be the Flash Fighters," explained Brown.

"It took them two weeks to come up with the names, and so they decided to compromise."