The 4-H Tech Storm robotics team members are, from front to back on the left, Gavin Lange, 8; Madison Schmaltz, 11, and Zachary Bogart, 11; and, from front
The 4-H Tech Storm robotics team members are, from front to back on the left, Gavin Lange, 8; Madison Schmaltz, 11, and Zachary Bogart, 11; and, from front to back on the right, Riley Smyer, 11; Tyler Smith, 11; Joseph O'Donnell, 13; and Aaron Backs, 13. (Submitted photo)

A project by local elementary and middle school students to help senior citizens has earned them a spot in state competition in Maryland.

The seven-member 4-H Tech Storm robotics team is set to compete Saturday at the FIRST Lego League's Senior Solutions challenge.

The event will be held at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Mike Backs, the team's coach.

Participants must use Lego kits to build autonomous robots that perform tasks on a playing field for points.

The York County 4-H team qualified for the Maryland state tournament by winning first place for its arthritic medication project and by finishing in one of the top four spots during a qualifying tournament last Saturday at the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland facility in Baltimore, Backs said.

This is the 4-H team's third straight year qualifying for the state competition, Backs said. He said he hopes this will be the year the team will win a national competition spot.

The challenge: For Saturday's competition, the team-created robot will travel a playing field, solving problems experienced

by senior citizens suffering from arthritis, including picking up a fallen chair and pushing it under a table, said Aaron Backs, a 13-year-old team member and Mike Backs' son.

Aaron's teammates are Gavin Lange, 8, a second-grader at Spring Grove Elementary School; Riley Smyser, 11, a fifth-grader at Leib Elementary; Joseph O'Donnell, 13, a seventh-grader at West York Middle School; and three 11-year-old sixth-graders -- Zachary Bogart of Shrewsbury Christian Academy and Madison Schmaltz and Tyler Smith of North Salem Elementary.

A performance: The 4-H team members also will present a skit on how they would help arthritis sufferers take medication without its causing stomach discomfort.

In the skit, Aaron will play Dr. Professor, who leads a future research facility that develops a program supposedly using nanorobots that enter the body through skin pores to deliver medication directly to the body parts experiencing arthritic pain.

"The nanorobots are very small, like the size of a blood vessel," said Aaron, an eighth-grader at Central York Middle School. "It's circular in shape and has a needle to inject the medication. The nanorobot has a sensor to pick up commands from an iPad."

The arthritic sufferer uses the iPad to point out to the nanorobot what body part is in pain, Aaron's father added.

In the skit, Dr. Professor's research team provides the nanobots to two rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients, being cared for by "Dr. Purple Bear" in South Korea.

Skill-builder: Aaron said that participating in 4-H helps him develop leadership skills and qualities needed to be a good teammate.

"And from the robot part we do, I get some options about what I want to do as a job when I grow up," Aaron said. "(4-H participation) would look pretty nice on my resume. It would open up scholarship opportunities. I'm thinking about starting a business in the far future."

Manchester, N.H.-based FIRST -- an acronym for "For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology" -- is sponsoring the competition.

The goal is to engage youth in a mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills.

--Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at