By Dan Lafontaine, RDECOMFebruary 4, 2013
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. (Feb. 4, 2013) -- Seven Harford County students showcased their talents as aspiring scientists and engineers, winning a FIRST LEGO League competition Jan. 26.
The Electrobots team, sponsored by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Team Aberdeen Proving Ground, or APG, and the Churchville Lions Club, took top honors at the FIRST LEGO League, or FLL, First State Championship Tournament at the University of Delaware.
Electrobots' members are Aaron Boin, Sam Boin, George Houzouris, Tyler Kash, Nicholas Kendall, Dawson Reed and Tommy Sukiennik. They competed against 125 teams from northeastern Maryland, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.
"I witnessed our future scientists and engineers beating challenges that three months ago we thought would be beyond their reach," said Virginia To, the Electrobots head coach and Nicholas Kendall's mother.
FLL is a robotics program for 9-to-14-year-olds designed to increase students' involvement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM. Students are challenged to design a solution for a real-world problem.
The competition's theme, Senior Solutions, challenged FLL teams to improve senior citizens' quality of life.
The Electrobots interviewed senior citizens of the Lions Club and learned that forgetting to take medications is common, To said. They chose to help seniors alleviate their worries about when and how much of their medications to take.
The team developed the IntelliPatch 2.0, a modified dermal patch linked to a microchip to monitor and dispense medications when needed. They visited a pharmacy and doctor's office to learn about the problem and present their ideas.
The Electrobots designed and programmed an autonomous robot to perform tasks related to senior-citizen living, such as gardening, wood-working and picking up a prescription bottle. They were scored on the number of tasks completed within two-and-a-half minutes.
Army Research Laboratory, or ARL, materials engineer Sandy Young, Ph.D., who participates in APG's STEM education outreach initiatives, said her organization supports as many teams as there are scientists and engineers available to coach and mentor.
"FLL, like many after-school STEM programs, is an important way for students to learn creativity and critical thinking with STEM subjects in a non-formulary way," Young said. "We're proud that so many of the students become successful in science and math in schools, their after-school FLL teams are successful at local qualifiers and state tournaments and more of them are choosing to pursue STEM careers in high school and beyond."
Churchville Elementary School Parent-Teacher Association contacted ARL for support after learning the Army organization had supported other local teams. Five of the team's students attend Churchville Elementary.
ARL purchased the special FLL Mindstorms Robot kits, LEGO NXT software, a field table kit and spare parts for the team with National Defense Education Program funding, Young said.
Young also helped to connect the team's coaches with FLL officials and other local coaches for advice on registration and competition.
In addition to ARL's assistance, team parents work at five APG tenant organizations, ARL; U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; Program Executive Office for Command, Control, Communications Tactical; and Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. The parents served as robotics mentors, logistics support and a core values mentor.
The Electrobots are now invited to participate in May at the North American Open Championship at LEGOLAND in Carlsbad, Calif., and will share lessons with Harford County teams.