Despite their practices being filled with constant laughter and smiles, one seventh grade Shelton robotics team is working hard to prepare for the First Lego League (FLL) World Championship that takes place in St. Louis, Mo., from April 26 to 29. Before the team can compete against the nearly 1,500 other teams in front of an estimated 65,000 spectators, SIStematic will have to raise money to cover the cost of the trip. According to one of the team\u2019s coaches Michelle Piccolo, the total amount the team needs to raise at this time is unclear, but they\u2019re trying to raise as much as possible before it\u2019s time to leave for the competition. \u201cWe have a little bit of a ways to go,\u201d said Piccolo. \u201cObviously, with this age group we have to not only worry about funding the trip for the kids, but the parents or coaches as well. We\u2019re trying to cut back the costs as much as we can.\u201d Piccolo said the team has already received donations from the city, the Board of Education, a sponsor, parents of team members, and friends, as well as a number of donations through a GoFundMe page that is still open to help cover the team\u2019s travel expenses. She added that the team is very appreciative of everyone who has supported them. After a successful fund-raiser a couple of weeks ago, the team is preparing for its next fund-raiser, which will take place on April 23 at local frozen yogurt shop Berry Chill. A percentage of the price paid for every frozen yogurt purchased that day will be donated toward the team\u2019s travel expenses. Receiving a push from the city One of the team\u2019s programmers, Diya Patel said the support the team has received from the community has motivated members to work harder and stay focused on the next level of competition, despite all having such busy schedules. \u201cIt\u2019s motivating, encouraging and inspiring, because we have all of these people all around the state that want to see us compete,\u201d said programmer Ria Dalvi. Some team members are nervous, but the entire team is excited to have the opportunity to travel to another state and compete at a higher level of competition. The team couldn\u2019t agree on what was more exciting, the opportunity to have their invention patented or the chance to be crowned international champions. One thing they could agree on is that they still have a lot of work to do before achieving either or both of those milestones. One of the team\u2019s builders and project researcher, Connor Dapp, said he\u2019s excited for the competition but has his eyes on having the team\u2019s \u201cAluminecho Net\u201d patented. The FLL championships have three components \u2014 addressing a global issue, building a robot that is made of Legos, and displaying \u201ccore values\u201d \u2014 and competing teams are judged in each of the three areas. \u00a0 SIStematic decided that its global issue would be \u201cby-catch,\u201d or the act of capturing a marine creature while fishing commercially. The team focused specifically on the by-catch of dolphins and created the Aluminecho Net in an effort to address the issue. \u201cNot many people have a patented idea, and I think that\u2019s pretty awesome,\u201d said Dapp. Patel agreed. \u201cIt\u2019s exciting to have an idea that could potentially change the world and save dolphins,\u201d said Patel. Fine tuning and adjustments With much work to do and not much time before the championships, SIStematic is scrambling to practice its presentation skills as much as possible. FLL mentor Laurie Vogl attends the team\u2019s practices to help members refine their ability to convey their core values to judges. Vogl and her husband have been mentors for years. The team practiced answering presentation questions and clearly communicating the process of developing their project\/invention. They\u2019re also rebuilding their entire robot from scratch, rewriting their entire skit and redesigning their board. Some team members recently visited the Plumb Memorial Library and had the opportunity to show their project to children and some adults. \u201cIt was cool experience,\u201d said Dapp. \u201cI remember one kid in particular that was so fascinated with how we built our robot with Legos. He was the one that we all thought could potentially be into robotics when he gets older.\u201d The team works long days but members know they have to put in extra hours if they want to compete against the \u201cbest of the best\u201d at the international level of competition. SIStematic team members all attributed a portion of their success to their parents. The team\u2019s second programmer, Ria Dalvi, said the team couldn\u2019t have been as successful as it has without the help of the parents. \u201cAlmost all of our parents help out,\u201d said Dalvi. \u201cThey\u2019re usually here with us, help us with our boards, with the robot, and drive us here, too, which is important.\u201d Life lessons learned As much as the team wants to finish the season as international champion, during the discussion of their core values members all agreed that the experience is not about \u201cwhat you win, it\u2019s about what you learn.\u201d The team also emphasized the importance of working together efficiently. \u201cTeamwork is probably one of the most important life lessons we\u2019ll ever need to learn,\u201d said Dapp. People who would like to donate to the team and its journey to the international championship may visit the team\u2019s GoFundMe account, https:\/\/www.gofundme.com\/sistematic-fll-robotics-trip.