Shafter Elementary's robotics team, the "Shafterbots", won the first place award for the best innovative solution at this year's Hawaii State FIRST LEGO League Championship Tournament last Sunday.

The Project Innovative Solution award recognized the team that developed the most thought provoking and innovative resolutions to this year's competition theme "Climate Connections".

This was Shafter Elementary's first year of offering students the opportunity to participate in a robotics program, as well as in the First Lego League Competition.

The team's coach and the school's technology coordinator, Ms. Sheri Fujii, said, "Through the many challenges the students faced with the different aspects of the competition, they have proven that hard work and perseverance makes a successful team."

The competition was based on "Climate Connections" where 9 to 14-year-old students researched and presented their own creative solutions to climate-related issues. The teams had to create innovative solutions based on the information gathered and then share both their research and solutions with a panel of judges.

The teams also had to construct and program a robot to accomplish simulated missions associated with "Climate Connections". These missions included: burying carbon dioxide; constructing levees; testing levees; raising flood barriers, elevating a house, delivering an ice buoy, and studying wild life.

The "Shafterbots" chose to prepare a project exploring the effect of greenhouse gases on the bleaching of coral reefs. The team came up with an innovative solution after studying the link between rising levels of carbon dioxide with warming ocean temperatures.

Kyle Bender, 11, presented a "phytoplanktonanator 3000" which would propose to clone phytoplankton, plants that produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide, in an effort to decrease the water temperature and save the coral reefs.

The team's research led the team to a few conclusions.

Scott Greene, 11, said, "I have noticed that the climate has changed because of four main causes: the greenhouse effect, human activity, factories, and carbon dioxide. All the pollution and carbon dioxide is making our atmosphere thicker so when the sun's rays come in our atmosphere, they get trapped inside causing our earth to heat up. "

Ann Ragasa, 10, and Brianna Trotter, 11, explained their research on coral bleaching caused by increased water temperatures. "I learned that the coral at the Great Barrier Reef will most likely be dead in 2050 because warmer waters make coral suffer heat stress eventually making them bleached and die," Ragasa said.

Deana Canfield, 12, and Jessica Harper, 9, noted that increasing the phytoplankton in the oceans could eat excess carbon dioxide, but with an additional problem.

Harper said, "Phytoplankton grows very quickly, only living for a day or so. But when it dies and is eaten, it also changes into carbon dioxide. But there is a solution. If the phytoplankton is in the deep water the carbon dioxide can't return to the atmosphere, helping our sea surface temperature."

Finally Bender explained the robotic solution, "In the ocean, after the phytoplankton eats up all the carbon dioxide, a robot will be sent to collect it. Once it's collected, the robot will take it to the deep parts of the ocean to bury it, so that the carbon will not re-enter the atmosphere."

Shafter Elementary was one of 48 finalist teams from elementary and middle schools across the state who demonstrated their creativity and skills at the Hawai'i FIRST LEGO® League State Championship Tournament which was held at the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in Honolulu.

Shafter Elementary also entered two teams in the Junior FIRST LEGO League (ages 6-9) exposition where they displayed works they created based on the FIRST LEGO League theme.

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