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NASA IV&V Hosts LEGO League State Tournament

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Fairmont State University's Falcon Center was transformed into a miniature LEGOland on Saturday, as more than 600 students competed in the First LEGO League State Tournament.

"This is the single-largest science, technology, or engineering competition that goes on in West Virginia," said tournament director Todd Ensign.

Teams were judged and awarded points on four criteria: research, teamwork, and technique and, finally, robot competition, where those 9-14 year olds had just a few minutes to put their robots to the test.

"It's in four-wheel drive, and some of the obstacles...not a lot of other people are trying it," said Emily Chandler, a member of the "Robo Roses" team.

Head referee Earl Scime is the Associate Vice President for Research at West Virginia University. Scime said the tournament serves as an opportunity to for students across the state to excel in a science and engineering competition.

"This is their challenge. It's a really hard thing for them to do. And when they achieve something in this, they feel really great about their ability to do STEM things," said Scime.

Scime's student referees agreed and said they enjoyed watching their predecessors shine.

"It's really fulfilling for us to see what they're doing, and to kind of recruit them so that they'll continue the program in high school," said Emily Raque, a student referee and member of Mountaineer Area Robotics (MARS).

"We usually give them feedback, like how to improve. That way, they feel better, like they did something," said Pragya Shekhawat, a student referee and member of Mountaineer Area Robotics (MARS).

Saturday's winner will go on to the national championship in the real LEGOLAND in California this spring.