CORNELIUS – When hurricanes hit communities, instructional time is often lost in schools.

Cornelius Elementary’s CyberKids Robotics Team tackled this problem for the Lego League 2013 Nature’s Fury Challenge. The team competed Nov. 24 at Cannon School in Concord.

The eight-member team explained its research of hurricanes through a game of Jeopardy!, which is interrupted by a breaking news segment. The segment explains the Buddy Learn App, a hypothetical tool they created to make teaching accessible to schools recovering from hurricanes.

In addition to traditional research tools, like books and websites, students interviewed a meteorologist, teacher and two principals in New Hanover County to develop the concept.

The Buddy Learn App allows teachers and students to work collaboratively through interactive chat and file-sharing tools.

The five-minute presentation is just one part of the competition.

Students hone their science, technology, engineering and math skills to program a robot, built of Legos, to complete a series of missions related to hurricanes and their destruction.

Missions include removing tree branches without them falling on nearby power lines or rescuing stranded pets. A Lego League coach visits the team about every other week to assist them with programming their robot with Mindstorms software.

Students apply to join the extracurricular club.

“I think it’s fun because we go to competition, we do stuff with the robot and we have to memorize lines," fifth-grader Reilly McDowell said.

His teammate, fourth-grader Megan Wentz, said she’s been able to get ahead in math after working with decimals to program the robot.

“We also had to do circumference, which I never knew how to do,” she added. “It was really interesting. Later this year, we used it, and it’s really easy to use now.”

Though math facilitator Ashley Hanks is there as a coach, it’s the students, working collaboratively, who drive the program.

“I’m not really dictating it,” Hanks said. “I have to make sure we meet the requirements, but it’s them leading what we’re doing and how we’re going to do it, which is pretty fantastic.”