Seven York Country Day School students who exceeded expectations will compete in a regional Lego robotics competition Saturday.

The students are members of a First Lego League team named the Robopanthers, and earned their spot by placing first at a qualifying competition in Exton two weeks ago.

The league is an international organization, and the competition is centered on Lego robotics and research. The Robopanthers won the qualifying competition because of all-around good standing in three categories — the robot they created, the research component they completed and core values such as teamwork throughout the competition.

VIDEO - Members of the York Country Day School First Lego League (FLL) react as their Lego robot achieves one of it’s programmed goals as the team
VIDEO - Members of the York Country Day School First Lego League (FLL) react as their Lego robot achieves one of it's programmed goals as the team prepares for an upcoming regional competition, Wednesday January 29, 2014. John A. Pavoncello -

Winning team: The team is made up of students in fourth through sixth grades, including Tyler Wertz, Will Stewart, Harry Kelly, Gregory Evans, Elan Azriel, Aislinn Abbott and Florence Schaumann.

Lisa Riker, the head of middle and upper schools at York Country Day, said this is the first year the school is participating in the league, which complements the students' computer programming curriculum in the middle school. The school's four rookie teams were among 21 in the qualifying round.

"For one of our teams to come in first was amazing," Riker said.

With the recent school cancellations because of inclement weather, Riker said, the students had only five practice sessions before the upcoming competition, to be held at the University of Pennsylvania. Riker said the students were focused completely on making adjustments to their research and robot, based on feedback they received at the earlier competition.

Experience learning: Riker said competitions such as the one coming Saturday allow students to learn through experiences. The team can see how other teams approach solving the same problems or building a robot to complete certain tasks.

In addition, Riker said they learn to make last-minute adjustments and "tweaks" to the computer programming, to adjust for height changes or stability issues on the competition's obstacle course. That can mean pulling a computer out only a few minutes before the competition, Riker said.

"It makes the adults very nervous," she said.

But Riker said those last-minute changes will help students adjust to any problem they face in the future, whether it be in robotics, sports or their careers.

"If you're about ready for the 'big show' and something is not the way it needs to be ... you have the confidence to fix it," Riker said.

— Reach Nikelle Snader at