The average age of people on the campus of Iowa State University will go down considerably this weekend. Camille Sloan Schroeder is a program coordinator in the College of Engineering and directs the annual "LEGO League" challenge.

This year she says the topic is "Nano Quest" and the kids building self-powered robots with the common toy pieces will be considering science at the size of an atom."That’s about the only way that it will be tiny," she says. The kids have been studying nano-technology and learning about it since the contest season began in September and Schroeder says "hopefully we’re going to see lots of big amazing things about tiny, tiny objects."

Among the hundreds of 9- to 14-year-olds at Iowa State will be contestants from Nebraska, which does not have its own state competition. Most every state has a tournament and there are also more than 30 countries from around the world doing "LEGO League." She says the challenge is always centered around real-world situations and problems.

Schroeder says the kids can feel like they’re solving real engineering problems, being real scientists and engineers. "It’s all factual, it’s all real," she says. "Kids are getting to be basically in the workforce…and it gives them some great experiences." This is the 9th year of the LEGO League competition, and the organizer says some kids have come through who are amazingly good at robotics, engineering and design.

She says by now they’re starting to see kids who are in high school now and some who didn’t even know what an engineer was or did, are "completely turned on to it." They’re looking at it as a career today, or as an education choice. For more, see a website they’ve created for " Iowa State Engineering Kids ."