South Jersey Robotics and First Lego League Building Solutions

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MILLVILLE, N.J. -

A group of South Jersey children is using a simple toy to learn some not-so-simple concepts outside of the classroom.

Eights kids from Cumberland and Salem counties make up the Robotecs.

The team was organized through South Jersey Robotics and First Lego League.

“It’s important for these kids," said Nicole Wettstein, a coach and mentor for the team. "I really feel like it’s an extension and an application of things that they’re learning in the classroom — things that may not be available to them in this area."

My favorite part was coming up with a solution because we know that we’re not just helping Vineland or South Jersey.

All the work is done by the children at night.

“There [are] three things that we really do: We build a robot for the robot game, we work on a project — [in which there’s a] problem and we come up with a solution — then 'core values' is like the principles for this, and then we come up with a board for that,” said 12-year-old Colton Del Collo, a member of the team.

The team of researchers came up with a solution for lead in school water.

“We got to learn a lot more about this problem and we learned about graphene, which is a very strong material," said Grant Del Collo, an 11-year-old member of the team. "It’s very thin [and is] a thousand times thinner than paper."

“We have graphene that goes inside the pipes," said Zaria Watkins, a 12-year-old member of the team. "So, the water goes through it — with graphene it doesn’t just take out lead, it takes out every contaminate you can think of.” 

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And the challenges they face only help these kids succeed in the present and hopefully in the future.

“I like building all these small modifications that are extremely intricate so that you have to kind of think and it’s sometimes a brain puzzle for yourself," said  12-year-old Jeffrey Cullis, another member of the team. "And that challenge is what I like doing about the robot.”

"I like that it’s like a little bit challenging ... but you keep trying until you can get the missions done,” said Lorenzo Garcia, a 10 year old on the team.

“You have to kind of get the exact program and it takes a lot of time, but it’s rewarding,” said Xavier Salomon-Fernandez.

“My favorite part was coming up with a solution because we know that we’re not just helping Vineland or South Jersey,” said Watkins.

“It’s teaching them that engineering doesn’t have to be you’re making some crazy rocket ship that’s going to go into outer space and go to Mars or whatever," said Steve Fernandez, a mentor for the team. "But it can be used for something that’s going to help people right in your local community.”

Although the team focuses on expanding their knowledge, they’re also expanding on a personal level.

“My favorite part was just making new friends,” said Kenneth Wettstein, a 12-year-old on the team.

“I really think this is my family that I should be growing up with right now,” said 11-year-old Doug Straub, another member of the team.

Building a family one Lego brick at a time. 

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