Isaac Asimov would be proud.

A group of Monongalia County middle school students, sponsored in part by West Virginia University, has won first place in a statewide science and technology competition.

The young robot enthusiasts might not be making machines as advanced as those in Asimovs novel,I, Robotat least not yetbut their efforts led to the West Virginia FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League International Championship at Wheeling Jesuit University.

This is the third consecutive year the group has captured first place. The victory will enable the team to advance to the FIRST LEGO League World Festival at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta in April.

These are hard-working kids who did their best during the state competition,said WVU physics chair Earl Scime, who coaches the team with Phil Tucker, electrical technologist for the department.

The students were judged on their research, teamwork and technical understanding of robot construction and programming. The Roboteers examined energy efficiency concepts and developed an energy audit for a school building. They also built a robot that autonomously maneuvered through a course of energy-related tasks.

This years Roboteers are Shannon Ballard, Tim Balvers, Amelia Bieniek, Isaac Bender, Jeremy Hunter, Iain McKay, Luke Scime and Haley Tucker.

The team will be required to raise the money needed to travel to Atlanta.

The competition is designed to encourage the kids to reach out to their community and build up interest and support for science and technology,Scime said.Previous Roboteers teams did well at the world championships, and I expect that this years team will be equally successful in April.

As in the past, the team will rely on local corporations and individuals to help them make it to Atlanta.

Additionally, veteran Roboteers started a high school group in Monongalia County that will compete in Pittsburgh in March.

The Roboteers and the high school group are supported by WVU s Department of Physics, Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, as well as individuals, businesses and groups in the Morgantown community.

FIRST was created to spark young peoples interest and participation in science and technology. To learn more, visit