THEY normally use their skills to repair multi-million pound helicopters.
But this team of Royal Navy engineers have been putting their skills to the test – helping schoolchildren build Lego robots.
For the past six months, the squad of Stem ambassadors from 1710 Naval Air Squadron have been giving pupils at Meon Junior School a guiding hand.
It comes after the school reached out to the Senior Service to help them in their quest to be crowned Britain’s robotics champions.
The pupils from the Shelford Road school, in Milton, have already scooped victory at the regional First Lego League competition and are now vying for the top spot at Saturday’s national final in Bristol.
Lieutenant Dan Emptage, 37, has been leading the engineers, who are based at Portsmouth Naval Base. He said: ‘The kids are absolutely fantastic. I’m so impressed by them.
‘I haven’t got children myself but I’m amazed at the level of stuff these guys can achieve. It’s been eye-opening for me.’ The sailors have been helping the school group – known as the Water Warriors – every Monday evening.
Made up of 10 Year 6 pupils, the young scientists have been building and programming their own robots to tackle a range of missions and tasks.
The theme of this year’s competition is hydrodynamics, with children learning about water, how it is transported, used and disposed of. Both the team’s Lego robots, Boris and Anthea, are able to take on a range of missions, from replacing a pipe to transporting small, mock water tanks.
Lewis Collins, 11, is looking forward to going to the national finals. He said: ‘I never knew I could do this. It’s really fun but quite hard.
‘We will be going against teenagers at the nationals. I’ve seen their robots and they’re just amazing.
‘I don’t feel scared of getting beaten but I am nervous. It’s really nerve-wracking.’
Joseph Mahmud, 11, said the help of 1710 NAS had been invaluable: ‘Being in the national finals is breathtaking, it’s nuts,’ he said. ‘The help from the Royal Navy has been amazing.
‘They’re great with technology, they know what they are talking about. They’re absolutely brilliant. They feel like part of the family.’
Jackie Kershaw, IT teacher, added the Royal Navy had given them a real chance of victory.
She said: ‘This is our third year of winning the regional finals but we struggled to win the nationals. So I contacted the navy to see if they could help.
‘They’ve absolutely made a huge difference. The children’s robot was very basic before they got involved. Now it’s got wheels, motors and all sorts of things. Our missions that we can do are much more complex.’
If the children win the contest, they could represent the UK at the world finals in the US.