The energy makeovers unfolding in Atlanta in April 2007 were pretty standard fare: a house received a solar panel on its roof, a hybrid sedan replaced a gas-guzzling truck, and wind turbines appeared on the horizon. What was exceptional, however, was that 9- to 16-year-olds were executing these green upgrades using Lego robots, on Lego models, in Lego landscapes.

The kids were finalists in the FIRST Lego League challenge, an annual competition that brings together teams of students from all...

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