Segway's Kamen sponors FIRST Lego League Championship

A national competition for middle school engineering ingenuity with those little square blocks.

Legos might seem on the surface to be just bunch of tiny brightly-colored plastic blocks that get stuck in the vacuum cleaner, but kids in Colorado are putting them to good use by doing research in nanotechnology and robot-building, reports Your

Eighteen students at West Middle School are busily preparing for the FIRST Lego League Tournament where more than 70 teams from schools across Colorado will participate. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a non-profit organization founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway Human Transporter. FIRST sponsors several programs and competitions that help make science, math, engineering and technology as cool for kids as sports are today.

To prepare for the tournament, students have been meeting every day after school to build Lego robots that can complete specific tasks, such as moving small items out of a designated area or placing small items in a certain area. Along with building the robot, teams of six girls and boys must do a presentation on nanotechnology, which is science at the molecular level.

"It's fun and challenging," said sixth-grader Hunter Ashburn. "It's a good way to challenge your mind."

"The most amazing part is that the kids are here every day," said West science teacher Alan Schwartz, who sponsors the West team. "They have such a high level of dedication and they are learning teamwork and problem-solving, in addition to developing their interests in science, engineering and technology."