HAMMOND | Using engineering, computer programming and research skills to build robots and other projects to solve real life problems.
That’s the mission that challenged teams from 13 area middle and elementary schools at Saturday’s 13th annual First Lego League invitational competition at the Hammond Area Career Center. Each team competed in three major activities: robot design, core values and project judging.
Dubbed “2012 Senior Solutions,” the world-wide competition kindles the imaginations of 9- to 16-year-olds to improve the quality of life for senior citizens by helping them continue to be independent, engaged and connected in their communities, said Ray Liskey, the School City of Hammond FLL facilitator.
Students explored numerous problems faced by people as they age, including memory loss, osteoporosis, arthritis, glaucoma and breathing issues.
For Team Robotrix from Highland’s Warren Elementary School, that assignment led to 14 missions and a project designing a “Robo Reach” that attaches to a shopping cart and helps retrieve items from the top shelves of supermarkets and retail stores.
“We wanted to help seniors, those with disabilities and shorter people to reach things on those shelves,” said Riley Mengel, 11, one of five project managers for the missions.
“We talked with store managers and found nobody had this,” she said.
The Warren Elementary team is coached by Principal J.J. Boylan and fourth-grade teacher Mandy Johnsen.
Six Team Robotrix programmers designed the systems that integrated Legos with computers to complete specific tasks required in the FLL competition. Each team is given the same Lego materials and a large vinyl mat with areas outlined for each task.
“We have to finish all these tasks in 2 minutes and 30 seconds,” said programmer Drew Johnsen, 11.
“They really have to work together as a team to accomplish all this,” said Boylan, whose team placed fourth in the overall competition.
In the Core Values portion of the tournament, Team Robotrix demonstrated that teamwork by building an airplane in two minutes for judges Melissa Stevens, a fourth-grade teacher at Harding Elementary and Judy Zahn, a fifth-grade teacher at Irving Elementary.
“Teamwork is very important. The Core Values portion shows how the team functions and works together for one solution,” Stevens said. “It’s neat to see how they work under pressure.”
It was definitely a team effort when the first-place winners, Lincoln Elementary’s Smartbots members, presented their Fighting for Fitness research project for judges Donna Cooper, School City of Hammond administrative assistant, and Jean Whelan, retired director of talent development and special programs.
Coached by first-grade teacher Mary Jean Champion and third-grade teacher Stephanie McGillvrey, the students researched how the lack of exercise negatively impacts senior citizens’ health. Men, they found, tend not to participate in group exercise programs. To help interest this portion of the population, the students developed a program to add boxing as an exercise option at area Y’s and health clubs.
They also are developing a DVD with the Fighting for Fitness boxing program.
“Your project is really well organized,” Whelan told the students at the end of their five-minute presentation.