They may have been a first-year team — barely a five-month-old team, in fact — but St. Paul the Apostle School’s robotics program of Westwood nonetheless earned the title of overall champions in a recent competition involving 52 teams from Southern California.The FIRST¬Æ LEGO¬Æ League is designed to introduce students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. Elementary and middle-school students design, build, test and program robots using LEGO MINDSTORMS¬Æ technology, and in the process learn critical thinking, team-building and presentation skills.In August, St. Paul the Apostle began its robotics program and joined the “FLL.” FIRST (“For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) is about encouraging kids to learn about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) through a robotic game. To compete in FLL a team must design a robot to score points on the playing field, identify and develop an innovative project all while practicing the FLL Core Values. This year's theme is Senior Solutions and teams had to find a way to help seniors improve their quality of life by staying independent, engaged and connected to their community.After interviewing their grandparents, conducting research, meeting with doctors, and visiting nursing homes, St. Paul students developed a “Sensor Shoe” to help seniors who have balance challenges; the sensors, placed on the soles of shoes, alert the senior if he or she becomes unbalanced. The Saints (who have a patent pending on their innovation) named their robot Izi after St. Isidore, patron saint of technology. The season started with over 300 teams competing in the Southern California region with 52 teams advancing to the championship competition at Legoland in Carlsbad. Teams were judged in four categories: Core Values, Research Project, Robot Design and Robot Performance. After their first round of presentations, the Saints received callbacks for further judging in Research Project and Robot Design and placed fifth in Robot Performance. At the end of the long and demanding day, they were declared the overall champions. Sister Stella Marie Enright, principal, and Susan Bjelajac, vice-principal, were on hand as well as supportive parents. The team — Steve Cox, Bennett Johnson, Jackson Jones, Matt Kozakowski, Christopher Lewis, Carmen Voskuhl and Reid Whitney, and coached by Jennifer Hardy and Rick Lewis — now advances to the World Festival Competition in St. Louis in April. —January 4, 2012{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0104/stpaul/{/gallery}