Budding engineers build robots to make seniors' lives easier
Jan 18, 2013 (Sun Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
At Poinciana Elementary School in Boynton Beach, a group of students are turning toy building blocks into robots -- all for the purpose of helping the elderly.
"I would say we're engineers-in-training," said fifth-grader Jordan Foldy, who helped design a robotic device that could help seniors avoid bending over in the shower and risk hurting themselves.
The school's Taz Bots robotics club this year had to build a robot around the theme of "senior solutions" in order to compete in the First Lego League Tournament. The tournament requires teams to submit a research project, find a way to help a senior and have their robot navigate through obstacle courses.
The group of third-, fourth- and fifth-graders build Brickit, a foot-long robot made of Legos. He can retrieve items like medicine bottles and use his attachment arm to flip switches or levers.
"At first I didn't think I had enough imagination to build a robot," said third-grader Cosette Gresh. "Now I can."
The group also constructed a motorized syringe that dispenses soap with the push of a button.
"We found that one of our older teachers had a [hernia]," said fifth grader Kelly Black, making it hard for her to bend over in the shower to grab her soap.
So the students brainstormed and came up with a solution -- "you screw it in to your shower head and the soap will come out with the water," said Black.
Gloria Gibson, director of the after school program and the club's coach, said students spend two hours after school each day working with the robot. They have to learn computer programming, work with decimals and familiarize themselves with various angles.
"I wasn't a girl that would like mechanical stuff and I didn't think I could do it," said Foldy. "I just thought scientists and engineers could ... but everyone can do it if they put their mind to it."
Fourth-grader Isaac Foley said he's not only learning more about math and science but also the nuts and bolts of teamwork.
"We have some people that want to do this and others want to do that but we choose what's best for the team," he said.
Gibson said students also have to do a lot of trial and error and "thinking outside the box."
"They amaze me every day," she said. "Kids have no limits. I think we as adults put more limits on them. They have no fear."
On Saturday, the school will host its first ever qualifying tournament for 16 student groups from all over the state. Winning teams will advance to the regional tournament.
"It makes us feel good that we are helping people ... and that they wouldn't get hurt as much," said Black.
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