Friday, January 31, 2020

With Lego Robots, Middle Schoolers Are Solving Practical Problems

Nice article from The Pilot...

Elise Elite 02.jpg
Adrianna Sexton, Charley Ritter, Jordan Brower, Kayden Beard, Cara Rouse, Leslie Catalanavila and Lana Marley. The Elite Eight First Lego League at Elise Middle School in Robbins. -
If you think eighth graders are too old to be playing with Legos, don’t tell the students in the FIRST Lego League chapters hosted around Moore County School

For a group of girls at Elise Middle School, Legos open up a world of imagination that bears a strong resemblance to the real one. Through easily-assembled blocks, they create cities in miniature. In those cities, they experiment with architecture, infrastructure and robots to devise possible solutions to real-life issues of development.

But building robots was only half of this year’s First Lego League Challenge. For the second component, the Innovation Project, the “Elise Elite” looked within the walls of their school to find a problem to solve.

“After going over a couple of different ideas, we wanted to do something that would be helpful close to home for us,” said Charley Ritter, an eighth grader at Elise. “So we decided to do a project for the visually impaired, to make it easier to navigate around school.”
The resulting computer application, which they call “EarSight,” won the Innovative Solution Award at the N.C. First Lego League State Championship tournament at N.C. A&T State University on Jan. 19. Elise’s team qualified for the state tournament in a regional event at Harnett Central Middle School in November.Founded in 1989 to foster students’ interest in technology, the FIRST nonprofit now has chapters worldwide. Carrie Robledo, who works as a digital integration facilitator at Elise, advises the team that also includes Kayden Beard, Jordan Brower, Leslie Catalan Avila, Ashona Ingram, Lana Marley, Cara Rouse and Adriana Sexton.

FIRST issued this year’s challenge in early August, so the group started meeting to devise their project before the beginning of the school year. In the Innovation Project, they were charged with identifying a problem with a building or public utility in the community and designing a solution.
The Robbins town water system was one early idea, and the girls discussed the potential for a drone-powered package delivery system. But common sense indicated that technology might not hold improvements to every process.

“We thought about the suggestion of a drone delivery service, but as a group, we couldn’t wrap our heads around it,” Charley added. “Maybe it isn’t a good idea to have people’s medicines flying over rural parks.”ably going to shoot that drone down,” Kayden lamented.

Ultimately, they found a cause right under their noses in Canaan Smith, a visually-impaired seventh grader at Elise. Their goal was to help him be more self-sufficient around school with a system to help him check his location on campus.

That might seem like a daunting task for a group of middle school students, but most of the team have participated in robotics and computing clubs at Robbins Elementary for several years. So they knew what existing technology they could put to use.

Canaan’s everyday school iPad is equipped with a Braille display … and now, thanks to the Elise Elite, there’s an app especially for him.

The team set up QR codes on the door of every room at Elise linking to a video that explains what room it is, who teaches there and what subject.

“Another idea for the app, if we were to continue working on it in the future, was to use an earpiece and a touch sensor so that one tap will tell you where you are, two taps will repeat the directions, three taps will activate a microphone to listen for a command and holding it will get you extra help like notifying a nearby teacher,” said Charley.

“We want to incorporate everything to the point where it could hold a day-to-day schedule and not only tell you where you are but kind of lead you to the class you’re supposed to go to.”

Like most STEM projects, FIRST Lego League gets students to unleash their creativity using science, engineering and math to solve open-ended problems. The program emphasizes what it calls its six core values: discovery, innovation, impact, teamwork, inclusion and fun. With no adult assistance permitted in competition, teams at the state tournament from Moore County Schools pitched in to make sure that every presentation went smoothly.

“It wasn’t just our seven-person team. Highfalls has a team, and when we couldn’t figure something out on our robot, they were very helpful,” said Cara..."

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1 comment:

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