Johannesburg - After coming out tops in the South African First Lego League National Championship in December last year, eight Grade 9 pupils are headed to the US for the international leg of the robotics championships.

The pupils, from Waterkloof High School in Pretoria, will compete with more that 200 000 pupils from over 70 countries in the world championships, which will be held in St Louis, Missouri, from Wednesday until Saturday.

Waterkloof High science and robotics teacher Carin de Beer, who’s also the team’s coach, will accompany the eight to the US.

She explained that teams will have to take part in four categories in the competition, and the team that scores the highest points from these tasks will win.

One of these tasks is for the pupils to build a robot using Lego tiles and program it to complete a series of obstacles.

This year’s theme for the competition is nature’s fury, so participants have to research and come up with technological responses to natural disasters.

The obstacle course their robot must negotiate will centre around natural disaster scenarios.

For the research aspect, De Beer said her team decided to address the issue of informal settlement fires. This is where the team’s name, Flame-n-go, comes from.

They’ve come up with easy and cost-effective methods to curb and delay the spread of fires in informal settlements, which can be swallowed up in flames in seconds, especially around wintertime, when residents use heating devices to keep warm.

The Flame-n-go team created a varnish mixed with baking soda which, if painted on wood, can delay the speed of the flames and allow people more time to escape.

They also created a fire extinguisher made of household items and trained leaders in informal settlements on how to make and use the extinguishers. - The Star