VIENNA, Va. (WJLA) - If you thought LEGOs were child's play, think again. The ideas these four Fairfax County friends get from working with the toys could end up saving lives.
"This mission is to get the pets to safety with their owners," said 10-year-old Vihini Gunasekera while moving around the brightly-colored bricks.
She and her friends spend their free time camped out in a basement in front of their LEGO table.
They signed up this fall for a robotics program called FIRST LEGO League. FLL is backed by Secretary of State John Kerry.
"Thank you very much for joining what we hope will be a growing network of young innovators," he recorded for a YouTube video earlier this summer.
More than 200,000 children, ages 9 to 16, from across the world are challenged with designing and building a robot that must complete certain missions.
Besides building, the kids must also brainstorm a solution for this year's challenge: Mother Nature's Fury.
They discover what can be accomplished when intense natural events meet the places people live, work and play.
"We get to make solutions like we're really scientists and we're not just kids," said Gunasekera.
"Kids can make a huge change to the world," added 5th grader Tarun Sivanandan.
The Mosby Woods Elementary students researched several natural disasters and zeroed in on "how destructive a tsunami can be," said Ayush Sundararaman.
Then, they came up with a survival "game-plan."
"The public schools already have a drill for tornadoes and fires and hurricanes, so why not a tsunami drill?" questioned Gunasekera.
They want drills mandatory in every school.
"All children in the world," clarified Sivanandan.
Their awareness and preparedness program won them second place at the FLL regional competition at George Mason University on Sunday, November 17th. There were 22 teams in total.
The kids whose team name is "Storm Callers" are now advancing to the State Championship all the while proving you can't measure intelligence with age.
"We haven't been in the real world," said Dhruv Sundararaman matter-of-factly. "We're still in school and when we do make some discoveries it makes us feel more like and adult and step by step, that's experience and sooner or later, we'll become adults."
When they do become adults, many of the kids hope to be recognized as prominent computer engineers.
The "Storm Callers" compete in the FIRST LEGO League State Championship on December 7th at James Madison University in Harrisonburg.
For more information on the FIRST LEGO League, visit their website.