Brainstorming with Legos: Contest at UTEP seeks ideas to help the elderly
Feb 17, 2013 (El Paso Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A high-tech pooper-scooper and a shower mat that could save a senior citizen's life were among several projects that children ages 8 to 13 developed in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Lego League's challenge.
On Saturday, the University of Texas at El Paso hosted the third annual robotic competition, which was themed the First Lego League's 2012 Senior Solutions Challenge, at Memorial Gym.
More than 100 children
took part in the competition, which required participants to design robots that could help senior citizens live independently.
Judges decide the winners in six categories based on the robot's design, teamwork or core values, and on the team's overall project.
The team that places first gets a chance to compete in the World Festival in St. Louis, where 85 teams are selected from the U.S. to compete against teams from around the world.
Second placers qualify to compete in the First Lego League robotics competition at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif.
Teams that qualify must find sponsors or pay their own way to the competition. Other prizes included trophies made of Legos and medals.
In an effort to make picking
up a pet's droppings easier, Tabitha Frazier, 12, and her teammates from Holloman Middle School in Alamogordo designed a high-tech pooper-scooper.
The device would work in two different ways. In the first, a person could use the scooper to pick up the droppings and the scooper would store the droppings in a container until they were disposed of. In the second way, the droppings would be zapped with a laser and disintegrated after they were picked up.
Kannon Pearson, 12, and his teammates from Infinite Minds team in El Paso developed a mat that could detect someone falling in the shower.
The team qualified to compete at Legoland in 2012. Through the use of fiber-optic sensors, pressure points, a tablet and wireless Internet, someone who fell in the shower could be helped in five minutes instead of waiting for someone to come home, Kannon said.
"At first, we were thinking of doing a robotic shower," Kannon said. "But then we started doing some research and found that a lot of elderly people get injured in the bathtub because they fall and then they aren't found for hours or days. With this, if an elderly person fell, then it would turn off the water, call a family member and automatically contact 911 after five minutes."
Thirty-five teams competed. Some of the other devices included a necklace that would remind people to take medicines and devices made of Legos that would be used by people with diabetes or Alz heimer's disease.
The focus of the competition is not only on winning but also on teamwork, said Virgilio Gonzalez, event director and associate chairman of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UTEP.
"The kids have to work together for the community," Gonzalez said. "And it's very important in this competition that the teams help each other out. Teams that do that are rewarded."
Alex Hinojosa may be reached at email@example.com; 546-6137.
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