First Lego team takes on real-life engineering challenges

What competition has teams like the Aquavarks, The Dog Paddling T-Rexes, the Chewbacca Bots and the Lightning Ladies 3.0?  

The Nebraska First Lego League (FLL) Championship event where the Draggy Dragons team from Glenwood competed Feb. 17 at the Strategic Air Museum near Ashland, Neb.

The day was full of Robot matches, Robot Design interviews, Core Values/Teamwork interviews and Research Project presentations for the 48 teams from across Nebraska and southwest Iowa that were selected at the six Regional FLL events across the state.

“The energy of over 400 youth and their adult coaches all sharing their love of working with technology and building and programming robots was amazing,” said Sherry Ford,  Mills County Extension Program Coordinator. “Along with that, the youth had the opportunity to solve real-world problems in their communities through their work on their research projects and innovative solutions for improving the process of handling, storing or using water in our homes, businesses and community.”

Ford said with teams wearing their team t-shirts, some funny hats, and chanting their team cheer, a “contagiously exciting atmosphere” was created.  

FLL introduces 9-14 year old youth on teams of up to 10 members to real-world engineering challenges by conducting research projects and building LEGO-based autonomous robots to complete tasks on a thematic 4’ x 8’ mission field made up of elements built out of LEGO pieces to represent tasks that fit the theme.

Ford said FLL teams, guided by their imaginations, discover exciting career possibilities and learn to make positive contributions to society through their research and design of an innovative solution to the yearly theme.

The Draggy Dragons team from Glenwood have been meeting weekly since September in the Glenwood Middle School Media Center during the season and twice weekly since early January when they were selected to participate in the Nebraska FLL Championship. The team includes team members Katie Lorimor, Tyler McCann, Brennan Hebert, Faith Wade and Steven Waymire and coaches Melissa Mixan, Larry Herrman and youth mentor Tanner Williams.

Their innovative project was to make a movie about installing water sensors throughout a home, school orbusiness to detect water leaks and send a signal to a smart phone if a leak is detected to prevent damage, injury or waste of water.

They learned about local water useage, common damage issues and amount of wasted water from slow or large leaks from Dave Malcom, Glenwood Municipal Utilities Manager. He also shared a quick and easy test to detect a slow leak in a home toilet by placing a few drops of food coloring in the tank, then waiting 30 minutes and checking the bowl to see if any color had come through without flushing.

They contacted and worked with Todd Douglas who works with Monnit, a pioneering company in wireless water sensors .
“At FLL team events there are cheers and high fives, but team members are more excited about what they have learned in problem solving, research, and building and programming their robot as they share it throughout the day than what they win at the end of the day,” Ford said. “The skills these youth are building in communication, applying technology to a real world issue in their community and working with each other are those most valuable in their future workplace careers.”

The Opinion-Tribune

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