Local youth win big at Clarkson Lego competition.
CLARKSON — A group of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County 4-H youth members were awarded the First Place Champions Award at the First Lego League (FFL) Competition held on December 1, 2012 at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. The team named the “E.N.I.A.C. Masterbots” consisted of homeschool 4H middle-school students: Sullivan Kyle of Hemingford, QC, Vienna Ainsworth of Plattsburgh, Liam Sayward of Peru, Benjamin Caito of Jay, Bradley and Christopher Neureuther of West Chazy, and Trent Yourdon of Keeseville. Homeschooled high-school sophomore Vaughn Bernard of Peru provided guidance and instruction in robotics. At the competition, the team was evaluated in three areas: project development, robot performance/design and teamwork. Sixteen teams competed in the Northern New York Championship Tournament. The E.N.I.A.C. Masterbots have been invited to participate at the national FFL World Festival in St. Louis, MO in April 2013.
The First Lego League is a national program that combines robotics, computer programming and engineering by using Lego building blocks to construct robots and to program them to successfully complete tasks. The students also are expected to demonstrate the FLL Core Values (teamwork, Co-operation and Gracious Professionalism) and complete a project based on a theme. The theme of this year's competition was Senior Solutions.
During the competition, teams sent their robots through an obstacle course of sorts, programming them to complete tasks related to activities that would be of interest to senior citizens or related to issues senior citizens experience. For example, one exercise required the robot to turn on a video device that seniors might use to stay in contact with their loved ones. Teams accumulated points based on successfully completed tasks.
While this was certainly the most exciting part of the event, it was only one aspect of the competition. In addition, each team was required to give a group presentation on how they portrayed the FLL Core Values and participate in a team challenge where they were evaluated on their teamwork ability. The Masterbots talked about the challenges they overcame and the friendships that were formed.
Lastly, each team was asked to develop a solution to a problem senior citizens experience. Each team identified a senior partner to work with and interview. The Masterbots chose to work with a local retired college professor who expressed his biggest daily obstacle was misplacing important things he needed. Other team members' grandparents echoed his issue. The team evaluated current products on the market and identified changes and modifications that would be needed, believing that if an effective product existed, seniors would already be using it. The team then designed a device and interface system that would assist senior citizens in locating important items. The team applied for a provisional patent with the help of the Shipley Center for Innovation at Clarkson University.
The team will continue to improve their robotics design and further develop their product as they prepare to attend the World Festival. They will be among only 85 teams from around the world who are invited. Winners from the various state, regional, and country competitions receive invitations to attend the World Festival based on a lottery system. This year the 1st Place Winner of the Clarkson Competition was invited to attend.
“All the team members enjoyed their experience” said Trent Yourdon of Keeseville, “I learned a lot about robotics. But even better I learned more about my friends. I made good friends.” Bradley Neureuther of West Chazy summed up the thoughts of the team members when he said, “I am definitely doing it again next year. I learned a lot and it was a whole lot of fun.”