LAYTON -- Most kids who set out to build a functional robot wouldn't start with a stack of 2-by-4s.
Then again, most kids aren't regional championship co-winners of Utah's FIRST Robotics Competition and now headed to the national championship at Missouri's St. Louis Science Center.
Eleven members of the Birds of Prey robotics team at NUAMES High School, in Layton, head east Wednesday.
Their unnamed robot -- made of boards, screws, springs, chains, a motor, wheels and a few lightweight aluminum parts -- was crated and shipped to Missouri immediately following the April 7-9 competition.
"We were pretty excited when we won," said team member Caleb Timpke, 17, of Layton. "And we're excited about going to St. Louis to see all the other robots that made it there."
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics is a national event for high school students.
Teams build robots required to accomplish a designated task, which varies from year to year. This year, the large, remote-controlled robots have to be able to pick up inflated round, square or triangular tubes and hang them on elevated pegs.
In Utah's April 11 preliminary competition, the headless robots competed head to head. For the finals, three-team alliances were formed, and all matches featured three robots competing against three robots, all working to complete the task first.
The NUAMES Birds of Prey ranked 22 out of 31 teams after preliminaries, but drew the attention of two Top 8-ranked teams, from Boise and Lancaster, Calif.
"We were in the finals because they picked us," Caleb said. "I think they liked how heavy our robot was because of the wood. They liked how well we played defense. They were offensive robots."
The Birds of Prey's 'bot could ram the opposing robots, made of lightweight aluminum, out of the way, and give its alliance robots time and space to score.
"It was quite interesting, being such a new team and doing so well in these games," Caleb said. "It was pretty exciting."
Caleb said he and his classmates are most excited by the scholarships awarded at nationals, which conclude Saturday.
"That's the reason I do this," said Caleb, who hopes to study chemical engineering.
NUAMES Principal Alan Stokes said his school's team was one of the younger entrants in the competition and one of the smallest teams.
"We started in our infancy last year, and we had a good turnout for kids, who got pretty excited about it, and we did OK in the competition," he said.
"This year, it's a smaller group of kids, but the project really took off. I am so excited about St. Louis, I can hardly stand it.
"It's just a great way to get kids involved and trick them into learning."
Stokes said it was inspiring to attend the regionals.
"It was just a very neat atmosphere, the way kids helped kids on different teams. If you needed a tool or had a part missing, people from other teams were more than willing to help. Some kids that didn't make it to nationals got awards, their robots were so good."
Stokes said he hopes to make the competition an annual event for kids at the 370-student charter school whose name is an acronym for Northern Utah Academy of Math, Engineering & Science.
A robotics competition fits right in with the school's education focus, he said.
"The competition taught them a lot," Stokes said. "They learned teamwork, which is a huge deal. They learned to collaborate with other teams. They used math, engineering and science, and how to put something together once you get it on paper.
"And there's the satisfaction they gained out of the experience that will help propel them forward in their interest in science, engineering and math."