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Queens 5th-Graders Solving Real-World Problems Through Robotics

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Flashing blue wigs? Safety goggles? Lab coat? Check.

Meet the Robopandas.

"When I was in kindergarten, I always saw them as like this dream team," Nolan Reinhardt, 10, told CBS2's Vanessa Murdock.

These bright minds, who are our future, are all fifth-graders at P.S. 94 in Little Neck, Queens.

Vanessa Murdock and the Robopandas watch the fifth-graders aquabot in action. (credit: CBS2)

They've been hard at work for months -- coming in before school and on weekends, too -- to prep their research and robot to make sure everything's perfect for their first-ever Lego League competition this weekend.

"We get to know more about the world," said Lily Lu, 10.

This year's theme is hydrodynamics.

Coach Ellie Glus said her students put in the time to solve the issue of flash-flooding and combined sewer overflows in the city.

"They are 10 years old, but they have embraced this research, the world problem and solution, wholeheartedly," Glus said.

Their Moat-o-Swale uses a mixture of wood chips and soil to capture rainwater. Students claim they have the research to prove it works better than what's most commonly used now.

"With just top soil, it's so compact, that the water does not go down as fast, as it causes mosquito breeding problems," Reinhardt said.

And then there is their aquabot. It runs on a script the kids wrote.

"We're basically telling it what to do," said Kellen Yu, 11. "They're reading instructions, the robot, and it goes off and does what the instructions tell it to do."

They've programmed their robot to complete five runs, and each is worth points.

"Making levers drop, turning wheels," Reinhardt said.

It can also turn on water and replace pipes.

On Friday, they presented their hard work to their schoolmates. They wowed the crowd -- and their principal, too.

"The science and the analytical thinking that they're bringing with them to middle school, high school and college, and I think all of us here are most proud of that," said Principal Laura Avakians.

Eric Leem, 10, said he has learned that "working together can resolve more things than working by yourself."

"I'm feeling very proud," Jack said.

The Lego League competition takes place Saturday at Horace Mann School in the Bronx. If the Robopandas qualify, they would move on to the New York City championship.

The ultimate goal is to qualify for the world championship, where they would compete against more than 70 other countries.

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