Up, down and back around was not only the St. Luke RoboLazers’ solution to sewage overflow, but was a key element in their robot design at the 3rd annual FIRST Lego League (FLL) Hamilton Qualifier at Cardinal Newman Catholic Secondary School on December 9.
The team, which devised an underground holding tank to collect and recycle excess water for the project portion of the competition, also conquered the robot game with a multi-wheel design that enabled its robot to roll up walls.
St. Luke was one of 18 elementary school robotics teams from the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board to compete in this year’s ArcelorMittal Dofasco-sponsored regional qualifier whose 2017 challenge – “Hydro Dynamics” – encouraged students to develop alternate solutions to the treatment, use and disposal of water.
Welcoming students, teachers, parents and guests to the annual competition, Superintendent of Education Morris Hucal said that just as ingenuity and creativity have been the driving force for ArcelorMittal Dofasco for more than 100 years, so too are they driving force of the economy of today and tomorrow.
“These students today are going to demonstrate creativity in how they will have their robot perform various tasks and in what they’re doing to make a difference by advocating for the conservation of water.”
Adding that the goodness, community outreach and family values exemplified by ArcelorMittal Dofasco “are really in many ways complementary to what we, as a Catholic school system are all about,” Chairperson Patrick Daly thanked ArcelorMittal Dofasco reps for their sponsorship and support of the regional event.
“For me, this robotics event has always been a great example of partnership which is at the foundation of Catholic education,” he said.
“To all the parents, mentors, teachers, principals, clerical or other staff here, I want to thank you for all you do for the young people.”
The FIRST LEGO League was created in 1998 as a way “to get kids excited about science and technology,” said Dalia Dudalski, a Grade 12 St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School student and one of several secondary student Masters of Ceremony for the FIRST LEGO League regional event.
Nearly 20 years later, the program now attracts 235,000 youth from 90 countries world-wide, she expanded.
The competition involves a three-part challenge, based this year on the theme, “Hydro Dynamics,” which tasks students to identify a problem in the human water cycle, create an innovative solution and present their findings to a panel of judges. In the robot game, teams are challenged to design, build and program an autonomous robot to complete timed missions related to water for points on a tabletop playing field. The third set of scores is awarded for demonstration of core values, the cornerstone of the FIRST LEGO League program.
While the robot game and project are what teams do, “our FIRST LEGO League core values support how we do what we do,” explained Master of Ceremony, Grade 11 Cardinal Newman student Matt Sbrissa.
“When things get tough out there today, you don’t want to forget about our core value of gracious professionalism,” he advised teams in opening remarks. “It means competing like crazy against the clock, but treating others with respect.”
“Keep that in mind if you get a little tired or something goes wrong. We all have more fun.”
Fun was the rule of the day for the St. Luke RoboLazers who used role play to present their solution to sewage overflow before judges in another timed activity.
In a presentation called “Up, Down, Back Around System,” the RoboLazers pitched an underground storage unit designed to prevent sewage overflow from being dumped into the environment. Sewage overflow and dumping can cause millions of dollars in damage to the community, environment and ecosystem, they reported.
Assuming the roles of city workers, Emily and Christian explained how water processing plants are often unable to clean the large intake of water generated during a large storm and therefore the water – collected from sewers and precipitation – is dumped into nearby water bodies, or worse, overflows into streets and homes.
“The Up Down Back Around system is the best solution to prevent large amounts of rain from entering the sewers by recycling water back through your home,” they said.
After learning about the problem, ‘engineers’ Jacob and Aidan developed several prototypes before landing on the Up Down system.
Instead of overflowing into the street or yard, rain water is directed through a pipe into an underground holding tank. The greywater is reused for flushing toilets and watering gardens.
“It’s changed the way we live forever,” testified ‘Grandma and Grandpa,’ who after battling sewage overflow for many years, were close to “losing hope and all of our money.”
This collaborative approach to problem solving is one of the key take-aways of the robotics program, said Convenor Joanne Bortolotto. In addition to developing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) skills, FIRST LEGO League helps students with brainstorming, problem solving and critical thinking, and enhances communication, presentation and team building skills.
“We have kids that are doing programming, designing, building, autocadding, media and fundraising,” said Bortolotto. “Not only do they do all these fun activities, but they’re also learning skills.”
FIRST LEGO League also provides leadership opportunities for secondary students, who organize and plan the event. Others work with elementary school teams to mentor younger students in the fundamentals of FIRST.
These outcomes have not only led to an upsurge in school robotics programs, said Hucal, but are preparing young people for the future – a future shaped by STEM.
He added that FIRST LEGO League enables students to “make connections to real life challenges that exist in their community and devise solutions using knowledge of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”
Teams from the Hamilton Qualifier advancing to the FIRST LEGO League West Provincial Championship are St. Luke RoboLazers Team 2029, St. John the Baptist SJB Team 21907 and St. Agnes Dragons Team 14108. Joining them is St. Matthew Robostangz Team 28112 which placed in the top three at the FIRST LEGO League Niagara Qualifier on December 2.Award winners from the FIRST LEGO League Hamilton regional event are:
Project – St. Thomas Wildbots Team 13685
Robot Design – Guardian Angels Robot Force Team 28723
Robot Performance – St. Luke RoboLazers Team 2029
Core Values – Our Lady of Peace Eaglebots Team 35204
Young Mentor – Aaron Shannon (Team 31049)
Volunteer Award – Ryan Valconi
Coach/Mentor Award – Alton Stead (Team 28723)
Rising Star Award – Holy Name of Mary Electric Eagles Team 35145
Judges Award – St. John the Baptist SJB Team 21907
Champion’s Award 1st Place – St. Luke RoboLazers Team 2029
Champion's Award 2nd Place – St. Agnes Dragons Team 14108Winners from the FIRST LEGO League Niagara Regional Qualifier on December 2 include:
Robot Design – St. Ann (Hamilton) Sa-BOT-age Team 16086 (Rookie Team)
Judge's Award – St. Martin of Tours STM Team 31960 (Rookie Team)
Champion’s Award 3rd Place – St. Matthew Robostangz Team 28112
Enthusiasm/School Spirit – St. Martin of Tours STM Team 31960