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SCDS Students Collaborate Using Robotics and Teamwork to Tackle Real-World Problems
Posted 01/27/2017 12:33PM

Left Photo (L to R): Thomas Bioren, Chirag Verma '18, Ella Allgor, and Mira Shuper.
Right Photo (L to R): Cole Pepin, William Canlis, Charlie Jefferies, Reed Delahunty, and Lucas Daniel.

Inquiry. Drive. Solutions. Each of the teams competing in the FIRST Inspires Program, a program to spark young people's interest in science and technology, possess these qualities. This year, two teams of mostly SCDS students—The TecHeads 2.0 and The Cats of Hammock—participated in FIRST Lego League.

In December's qualifier, The TecHeads 2.0 comprised of current SCDS 7th graders Ella Allgor and Thomas Bioren, SCDS alumnus Chirag Verma '18, and their friend and non-SCDS student Mira Shuper, won an award for "Best Designed Robot." The Cats of Hammock, is comprised of SCDS 5th graders Cole Pepin, Lucas Daniel, Reed Delahunty, William Canlis, and Charlie Jefferies. Both teams advanced to the semifinal tournament which took place on Sunday, January 22, 2017.

The Cats of Hammock created a research project on city raccoons destroying backyards and neighborhood landscaping. Their solution was a device called the S.C.R.A.M. (Super, Cool, Raccoon, Activated, Machine), a statue that looks like a raccoon with a motion sensor and a high pitched noise inaudible to the human ear. They created a prototype out of a garden statue, Lego EV3 motion sensor, an old speaker, and a Lego EV3 control box and presented their solution to local landscaping experts who were impressed with the creativity and usefulness of the idea. "All in all they had a great time, learned a lot about teamwork, how to deliver to a timeline, and how to stick with a task. It was impressive to see the team trouble shoot their robot, help each other solve programming problems and encourage each other as a team" SCDS parent of 5th grader Cole Pepin and Auction Chair Danna Redmond said. The Cats of Hammock were coached by SCDS Parents, Danna Redmond and Pauline Downey and mentored by SCDS Parents, Brian Pepin and Chris Jefferies

The TecHeads 2.0 decided to come up with a solution for bird strikes at airports. They discovered that bird strikes cost the U.S. aviation industry $650 million annually, not to mention the loss of bird life. They came up with The TecHeads' Avian Radar Drone Interface Surveillance (or T.A.R.D.I.S.), which is a combination of weaving avian radar, drones that mimic peregrine falcons, ADBS receivers, and a computer interface. When the radar detects the birds within five miles of an airport, it launches the drones that fly and scare away the birds. They figured out that it would cost $62 million to put a system at the 100 busiest airports in the world (SeaTac being number 36 on that list), but given that the industry loses $650 million a year in the US alone, T.A.R.D.I.S. would pay for itself in 8 days. In addition to online research, they met with SCDS parent Michael Bolotski to learn more about drones and ADBS receivers, an Alaska Airlines Captain who experienced a bird strike firsthand, visited flight simulators, and interviewed biologists. The team presented their idea to the Chairman and CEO of Alaska Airlines. "The team was quite nervous about presenting to the CEO of Alaska, but they handled themselves admirably and their confidence grew because of the experience," SCDS parent of 7th grader Thomas Bioren and 3rd grader Ben Bioren as well as The TecHeads 2.0 Coach Heather Bioren said.

At the semi-final tournament, the TecHeads 2.0 and The Cats of Hammock each presented their project to a panel of judges, as well as competed in a teamwork challenge (the "Core Values" challenge) and the Robot Game, which consisted of programming a Lego EV3 Mindstorm to autonomously complete a series of challenges in a set amount of time. At the conclusion of the tournament, judges confer on how each team did in each of the categories. Based on this, awards were handed out and the teams to advance to the next tournament were selected. The TecHeads 2.0 won the Champion's Award. According to the FIRST program, "This award...celebrates the team that embodies the FIRST Lego League experience by fully embracing the FIRST Lego League Core Values while achieving excellence and innovation in both the Robot Game and the Project." They were also one of seven teams to advance to the Washington State Championship tournament on February 4. If all goes well, they may advance to the national tournament in Houston, Texas this April.

"While I am happy for the team's successes at the tournaments so far, I am most proud of the hard work and perseverance these kids have shown throughout the season. They stretched themselves beyond what they thought they could do," Heather Bioren said. "Each of them has shown such dedication and graciousness. They supported one another, divided and conquered tasks, appreciated one another's hard work, mentored The Cats of Hammock, and continually surprised me with their innovation and maturity."

Both of these incredibly talented teams succeeded in creating tangible solutions to real-life problems. Doing all of this on top of extra-curriculars and keeping up with schoolwork is no easy feat. February 4 is right around the corner, so if you see Ella or Thomas around campus before then, be sure to wish them luck for the Washington State Championship tournament!

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