A noisy arena during the school year often means parents cheering on their children for any number of athletic challenges.

A noisy arena during the school year often means parents cheering on their children for any number of athletic challenges.

Over the April 14 weekend, however, the cheers were for the robots, and the support came from the kids who built them, and from their parents.

Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Marion hosted the National Robotics Challenge April 14-16. The tournament included students from 65 schools across 10 states, with more than 1,000 participants.

This year's victorious robot and its creators - fourth-graders Aquila Simmons of Canal Winchester and Evan Albers and Owen Gajoch, both of Upper Arlington - were there representing Wellington School.

"We're very proud of how we did," Wellington Lower School teacher and robotics team coach Dorene Henschen said. "This was a real team effort."

The competition included 13 robotic challenges in which the teams could compete. The Wellington team chose to build and program their robot to complete a series of tasks in the Canine Companion challenge.

The robot was required to navigate a series of lines drawn on a plywood board, at times doing particular tasks such as moving objects into a box or striking a ball off of a pedestal.

"We really had to work as a team to win this," Henschen said. "When we got there, the course board was a little warped and that really caused several teams problems. The kids had to not only tweak the parts and pieces on the robot but also the programming to make it work."

The students use the Lego Mindstorm NXT robotics system to build and program their robots. These off-the-shelf kits integrate with Lego building blocks, gears, motors and sensors to control the robot's movement.

"If your robot is just a few degrees off at the first turn it will be way off for the final part of the course," Simmons said.

Her teammate agreed.

"One problem can present 15 others," Albers said.

Strategy plays a part in the competition as well, because points are added or deducted not just for completing a task but also for returning the robot to its starting position. The students used this to their advantage by making certain that their robot left and returned at least once without a problem so as to maximize their score.

The Wellington School now has robotics courses across all three of its school levels: the lower, middle and upper schools. Interested students have the opportunity to begin working with robotics as early as third grade, and a fourth-grade full Intro to Robotics course is in its second year.

"This is only the second year that the lower school has had a robotics program, and it's the first year that we put together a team for the elementary level competition," Henschen said. "Right now, we are ahead of the curve in teaching robotics at the elementary level. Very few other schools are teaching it so early."

This weekend, April 27-30, the Wellington upper school robotics team will compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship in St. Louis, Mo.

"The fact that we have (robotics) programs in all three divisions is significant because it means that students can go from year to year gaining confidence as they go," Wellington Upper School teacher and robotics coach Matt Spencer said.

Simmons, Albers and Gajoch all agreed that they had a great time and want to continue building, programming, testing and competing with their robots.

"Robots make me really happy," Gajoch said.