Bexley Middle School technology students tried their hands at artificial intelligence last week.

Bexley Middle School technology students tried their hands at artificial intelligence last week.

Thanks to special software by the LEGO company, seventh- and eighth-graders teamed up to create their own robots to compete in the first "Octagon Challenge," hosted by middle school technology teacher Chris Melville.

The competition, which took place in Melville's classroom at the end of the school day Nov. 20, judged which robot could successfully maneuver out of an open-ended octagon.

Students in Melville's technology extended classes, which include students who don't participate in band, orchestra or choir, worked for two months to design their robots.

Students built the robot skeleton out of LEGO kits then used the special software to program their creations to either use light or touch sensors to move around obstacles.

Each group's robot had three tries to navigate its way out of the octagon. At the end of three tries, students used Microsoft Excel on the classroom SMART Board to calculate their team's average time. The attempts ranged from about four seconds to 13 seconds.

Melville said he thought his students did a great job with the technology.

"It really is engineering software -- it's going through the design process and doing the programming," he said.

The first-year technology teacher, previously a math teacher at Bexley Middle School, said the goal of the project was to use teamwork to learn about technology.

"Technology at Bexley Middle School is a 'hands-on, minds-on' course where students are actively involved in out-of-seat, real-life projects that engage them in the learning process," Melville said in a press release.

Nate Meizlish, 13, was on the winning team for Melville's seventh-grade technology extended class. Each member of his group received three bonus points in the class.

Meizlish, who is working a year ahead in math, said he thought his team won because the students were better at programming their robot.

"You can do a lot of things with it -- like reprogramming it to change how things work," he said.

One of his classmates, Marie Estelle, 12, said she enjoyed assembling the robot.

Her group's robot, which used a light sensor to pilot its way out of the octagon, had a few issues navigating the challenge.

Ultimately, though, Estelle said she thought the project was great.

"I like technology," she said.

Thirteen-year-old Sidney Woodford's group had to go back to the drawing board during the competition. The group's robot used a touch sensor to escape the octagon.

Woodford said she didn't think the LEGO software was too hard to learn, but it seemed the robot had a mind of its own.

"We programmed it to hit the wall," she said. "But it turns when it starts."