Students from Ralph Allen School and Kind Edward’s School in Bath are getting ready to represent the UK at the FIRST® LEGO® League World Festival in St Louis, USA, after winning the national robotics championships in January.
The team called Untitled 1, made up of youngsters aged between 11 and 15, won the UK final after presenting a project which improved the quality of life for elderly people, as well as building, testing and programming a LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Education robot to complete a set of missions on an obstacle course.
But there’s still a lot to do before Freya Alder, Tom Mason, Dani Workman, Rafi Borries Gruber, Joe Mason, Max Workman and Claudia Moorhouse (pictured above) can head for America in April. Team member Freya Alder reports on the hectic preparations for the big event.
“After the national finals we decided to redesign our robot completely as it didn’t perform as we had hoped in the performance part of the event. We came to the conclusion that our beloved ‘Beast’ was simply too complicated and couldn’t survive under such precise conditions. Also, we didn’t fancy facing customs with such a complex thing in our suitcases! So, we devised a clever Master Plan – well, we like to think so anyway!
“Essentially there are now not one, not two but three robot structures – a big one, a medium one and a baby-bot. All three motors are in the smallest robot, which then powers the other two. To reduce changeover time the robot completes the missions on the mat in a circle as the smaller robots disembark from the bigger one.
“At the national competition, the judges seemed to love the presentation of our fingerprint doorbell scanner. It seemed there was one thing missing though – a prototype. We contacted the Head of Electronics at Bath Institute of Medical Engineering and a team of engineers from Rotork, a local engineering company, in the hope that they would help us. To our delight, we met with both and designed a plan of action. We have bought a fingerprint scanner, a micro-controller board and a Raspberry Pi. We have also downloaded some software, MySQL, PHP and a web server.
“As a team we now have to connect the pieces of equipment together, learn the programming language PHP and create a database containing photos, reasons for visits and other information about recognised visitors. Our device should be up and running before America, however we’ve had to compromise a few luxury features like making it wireless because the time is ticking!
“We have to raise £10,000 to fund our trip to America, so the team spent an entire day selling doughnuts at the Bath Half Marathon. A few hundred hungry spectators and fourteen cold hands and several hoarse voices later, we had managed to sell everything, making a profit of £200. At Ralph Allen School we have also presented our robot and our doorbell for the elderly rather anxiously to potential sponsors. We are also going to do bag packing at our local supermarket to try and raise donations from the general public. In a few weeks’ time, we’ll stand outside Sainsbury’s with a table full of LEGO and a hopeful donation bucket, and try to engage the Saturday shoppers. The good news is that we are promisingly half way to our target of £10,000. From Bath to Canada all sorts of companies have sponsored us and with any luck have been a little inspired along the way.
“FLL UK organisers, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, invited us to The Big Bang Fair in London on March 17 to show off our robot. We have our own website which we update with news to keep anyone and everyone informed. We’re also gaining as much publicity as possible.
“We really want to take advantage of the legacy that we can create from this. So, with that in mind, we have set up taster sessions for our local scout groups and encouraged our schools to create LEGO robotics clubs to promote the STEM subjects in a fun and exciting way.”
For more about the FIRST LEGO League and to find out how your school can take part, visit the website.