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LEGO League Builds A Better Future

January 17, 2014, 10:18 PM by Sammi Bjelland

LEGO League Builds A Better Future

You really can't stop a natural disaster. But you can be prepared for one.

That's why the Red Cross is using Youth Preparedness Week to spread the word about being ready for disasters.

In tonight's Eye on KELOLAND, we find out how LEGO robotics teams are going to help the Red Cross share the message.

The First LEGO League is a fun competition for kids, but they're taking a more serious turn with this year's theme; Nature's Fury.

"I think the idea of Nature's Fury and natural disasters was initially really exciting as a topic, because, oh cool! Tornadoes, volcanoes, things like that. But the more they look at it, the more I think they understand the seriousness," Robyn Swets, President of SD Robotics Association said. 

"I know that natural disasters can be very dangerous. I don't want one to happen to my house," YODA team member, Daniel Eager said. 

"I just figured, well I mean people can just run away or something. But it's much more serious than that. It's much harsher," YODA team member, Finn Kane said.

For the past few months, teams like YODA have been putting together research projects based on the disaster theme.
One of those is a service project to help the community.

That's where the Red Cross comes in.

"So we said, how can we teach them beyond just natural disasters and what they're all about. But how can we actually empower them to be prepared," Tony Burke with the Sioux Empire Red Cross said.

"Part of what the Red Cross does is they distribute these disaster preparedness kits. And a lot of the kids are actually studying that type of thing for their research project. So we thought it'd be great if they could participate in the putting together of the kits," Swets said.

At the state competition this weekend, there will be stations for the kids to assemble kits during their down time. But it's not just about this batch of supplies.

"This gives us an opportunity to get into people's homes. So not only was it about those 30 to 50 kits that we're probably going to build on Saturday. But it was about getting those family members, those coaches, those team members to start thinking, well maybe I should do this in my own home," Burke said. 

The students are already excited to share these lifesaving kits with others.

"You need stuff to survive, and if you're there for a really long time, you need food and water and stuff," Kane said. 

"If anything ever happens to your home, you have that for First Aid, so if all of the other stuff gets destroyed," Eager said. 

A recent trip to a flood-ravaged farm also gave the teams an up close look at what a real disaster can do.

"His farm, his whole field is surrounded almost all around it, almost completely surrounded by it," Kane said. 

And they learned about the work rescue groups like the Red Cross have to do in times of crisis like this.

"The sandbagging is very expensive and takes up a lot of time. And it's very hard to do," Eager said. 

Organizers hope this kind of knowledge will prepare the kids for future emergencies.

"It affects everybody when a disaster hits. It's not just going to be the adults in charge. You might even find young kids that suddenly get left on their own. And they're going to need to know a little bit about what kinds of things can you do to stay safe," Swets said. 

"We'll better prepare for when we're adults, so if that ever happens to our house when we're adults, we'll be more prepared," Eager said. 

"That's how we're going to change. Us old folks, you know, we're a little more stubborn in our ways. And we don't think about it. We get a little more apathetic. But if kids learn in school or learn at the First LEGO League, they're going to go home to mom and dad and say, mom and dad we should do this," Burke said. 

Something these young people are already doing.

"I talk about it with them at home, like when we're eating dinner we talk about it," Kane said. 

"As long as the kids are being prepared, I think that helps the whole community be prepared. We start from the bottom, up," Swets said. 

The First LEGO League state competition for South Dakota will be held Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Elmen Center on the Augustana campus.

You can find a list to make your own disaster kit at the Red Cross website. 

To learn more about the First LEGO League, check out their website here.

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