GREENSBORO — Millennium Charter Academy’s robotics team recently received the Innovative Solutions award at the North Carolina First Lego League qualifying round at Weaver Academy in Greensboro.
“At first we were scared. This was our first meet,” said class member Laura Browne. “This was a great opportunity for us to see how other teams were solving problems. We really learned some things.”
The theme of this year’s competition is Senior Solutions, which seeks to help students think about the problems faced by older people and to develop solutions to make tasks easier for them. Overall competition includes the robotic missions, programming and design presentations, and a project presentation with grading on professionalism in delivering information on their solution.
According to team coach Brittany Branch, the team heavily focused on its presentation. The team’s name is Mirus, which is Latin for outstanding or astonishing. The school’s kindergarten classes donated puppets which are being used as characters in a commercial about their solution to accidental falls at night, the Brite Bed.
Branch explained the Brite Bed is a prototype which uses a reverse pressure switch to activat floor level lighting when a person gets up from bed. The lights automatically come on when a person gets up, which helps the person see better and prevents them from falling.
Browne and teammate Elizabeth Campbell said one of the most striking differences were in the look of the robots. The team did admit to some problems with their robot named Tofer, which became too independent and began to ignore its programming.
“By the third round our robot didn’t even go the right way,” said Noah Willingham. “We had some technical issues but we have that fixed and we’re going to be more prepared. We’re going to stick with our first design. Less is more. Simple seems to work.” He said Tofer was 8 years old and a recent donation has allowed the group a new robot and new software.
First Lego League is a program designed to help elementary, middle and high school students learn real world engineering solutions by programming Lego robots to complete various missions based on certain themes.
“It was a goal just to get to see how other teams had planned their robot’s missions,” said Nick Blackburn. “We found out we had set up some of our areas on the obstacle course backwards. We now have a better idea of how to set things up so our robot can move smoothly from task to task efficiently.”
The team members also said they are continuing to refine and improve the Brite Bed prototype. Browne and Campbell said the number of lights on the side of the bed has been increased to five and a clip instead of electrical tape now attaches the lights to the battery.
“I was very pleased with the outcome,” said Branch. “We didn’t know what competition would be like. We saw a lot of great projects. The time we spent on having a catchy presentation using puppets paid off. The puppets were fun. They even rebuilt the bed so it performed consistently. Every solution is a prototype.”
Branch said the team is now focusing on each member knowing all they can about the science of the project. She said community members have come in a acted as judges, asking tough questions.
“I feel the team is ready for the regional,” said Branch. “They all want to talk about the robot but that’s not the total focus for us at this point.” She said the team is even considering seeking a product patent after the competitions.
Lego League regional for this group is scheduled for Saturday at the Cannon School in Charlotte. The all-day competition is set to start at 8 a.m.
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.