BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Hundreds of students- 48 teams of fourth through 8th graders- filed into Shroyer Gym on MSU's campus for the Montana First Lego League tournament.  This year's challenge?  Senior Solutions in which teams were required to come up with solutions to real life problems in order to keep seniors engaged, connected and independent.  

After a brief introduction from Looney the Robot, I caught up with a couple of participants in the practice lounge they called, the Pit.  Hannah Ferguson and Lily Seliaskar are fifth graders from Missoula.  Bozeman native, student teacher and Coach Norman Dick says the teams have been meeting for two to three hours after school, every day for several months.  Building robots, making missions and working on presentations.

"Has it been a lot of work?" I asked.
"Yes," replied Ferguson.

Ferguson and Seliaskar gladly explained details of their presentation and what they learned along the way.

"Grandparents have the same problems as astronauts," explains Seliaskar.

Yet, both admitted to having the jitters.

"I'm scared and I can't believe I'm here," says Ferguson.

"Kind of nervous and you're scared that your robot will do the wrong thing," echoes Seliaskar.

Dick offered some stress relieving tips and the Stars were soon ushered to the floor.
Their task is to retrieve the broken chair with the robot, fix the chair and return it to the table.

After the two girls seemed disappointed with their performance for the first round, I asked Dick what he might say to coach them.

"First round went as it did but you learn from your mistakes and that's what life is," he said.

Teachers say the tournament is less about competition and more about learning from the experience.

"These kids are really nervous at first but just seeing them grow as they're working as a team...It's a pretty unique opportunity for them and it's been a great opportunity for us as teachers," explains Dick.

Dick says it's about teaching core values like teamwork, responsibility and respect.

"We're trying to communicate with them that it's important that no matter what situation you're in, that you show respect for other teams, you show respect for your teammates.  If somebody makes a mistake, it's okay.  You just move on from it and do better next time around," says Dick.

Regardless of the outcome at the end of the day, participants say it's been a great experience.