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Youngsters use brain, imagination to build robots

By Staff | Jan 13, 2016

Members of the Robotic Recyclers team gathered around a table Saturday, Jan. 2, as they tested their robot to see if it would accomplish certain tasks. MEGHAN MCCOY

Young minds came to life during a First LEGO League meeting at the Sanibel Public Library Saturday, Jan. 2, as 9 to 13 year olds eagerly worked with their teammates on perfecting their robots.

The energy of the conference room was electric as ideas, laughter, outbursts of accomplishments and encouragement filled the space as two teams, R2-D2 and Robotic Recyclers, worked with their teammates to further the progress of their robots.

Tiffany Green said the two teams are comprised of Sanibel youth. She said the Sanibel Public Library provided grant funds to start another team this year.

“The kids do everything,” she said. “The kids run the meetings. They come up with their own agenda and monthly schedule.”

The First LEGO League teams, guided by adult coaches, develop a solution to a real-world problem and use a computer program to build, program and design a robot for a table top playing field while using STEM skills – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Throughout solving a real-world problem and creating a robot, participants learn such core values as gracious professionalism and coopertition.

R2-D2 members watch to see if their robot’s censor will detect the different colored lines. MEGHAN MCCOY

This year the youngsters brained stormed ideas for the FIRST LEGO League TRASH TREK Challenge.

The Robotic Recyclers created pillows made out of plastic bags for the cats and dogs at Gulf Coast Humane Society.

Greyson Green, 12, said they placed aluminum foil over the plastic bags and ironed it together to create a fabric for the pillow. An average of 95 to 120 bags were used for each pillow.

“The pillows were strong enough to withstand scratching and biting,” Greyson said.

Colin Horvath, 13, said they received a project design award for a skit they produced regarding their pillow project. He said they did a role play with characters giving a brief outlook into the future of what plastic bags would do to the environment.

Nicholas Underwood, 10, another member of the Robotic Recyclers, said the project taught him that reusing plastic bags is healthier for the environment.

“It’s healthier for the environment to reuse instead of throwing away,” he said.

R2-D2 decided to tackle the challenge with styrofoam take-out containers. The team’s solution of eliminating styrofoam containers was to add a tax to the manufacturer who creates the take-out containers. A tax credit would be issued for the restaurants that used composite take-out boxes.

The teams migrated to different areas of the room earlier this month while tackling various tasks in order to prepare for the regional competition Saturday, Jan. 16, at Cypress Lake Middle School. After receiving the Kickoff Kit, the teams had six weeks to design their robot, build and program it, while meeting engineering challenges of this season through field games.

The R2-D2 team dedicated two hours to fully understand how to program and attach a working censor to their robot to detect colors and when it should stop a certain distance from an object.

Zane Stoneman, 10, a member of the R2-D2 team, said the censor would help the robot that is programmed to travel to a certain area if it was a centimeter off.

“You don’t have to line it up because it will correct itself,” he said due to the censor reading white and black lines on the playing field.

Michael Kleinow, 13, was working with Zane on programming the censor. He said by programming the censor, the robot will go a certain way once it hits a certain color.

Michael said he enjoys First LEGO League because of the different challenges they face.

“I like programming the robot and building the robot and the feeling of accomplishment when it works,” he said.

The exercise took the duo from the playing field table to the computer to further tweak the program for the robot censor.

Lillia Kleinow, 9, and her partners were also trying to perfect a censor that took the robot to a specific obstacle on the course where the robot had to push a button before backing up.

“I like that we work together as a team to work on the program,” Anna Willis, 11, a member of R2-D2, said. I like making “the robot do something exactly the way you want it to do.”

Annabel Crater, 11, said her favorite part about participating in First LEGO League is facing the challenges that arise.

“I like using the programming to try to figure out what’s wrong with the mission,” she said.

Follow Meghan @IslanderMeghan on Twitter.