Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Team Smileyface, sixth and seventh graders from Coppell Middle School North, won the Strategy and Innovation Award at the 5th annual North Texas FIRST LEGO® League (FLL) Championship Robotics Tournament Jan. 12, at The Hockaday School in Dallas where they competed with 54 other teams. North Texas FLL started with 202 teams, but the others were eliminated in previous events.
One segment of the competition involved a robot designed by the group that could complete designated tasks.
“It is supposed to do missions on the boards such as quilts, pushing the dog, a ball game and bowling,” Smileyface team member Alex Wu said.
The other segment of the competition required the team to design an innovative product to help senior citizens improve their lives.
“The theme of the tournament is Senior Solutions,” said parent coach Vieven Moore. “What particularly interested them was fall prevention, because they learned that over a million seniors fall each year and that there are thousands of fall related deaths each year. As they were looking into how to prevent seniors from falling, the issue that interested them the most was the role that body condition and muscle mass had to do with increasing balance and stability to keep them from falling.
“They found that when seniors got to the point where they used motorized scooters, they start losing leg muscle mass because there is no activity. They get mobility to go where they need to go, but they start losing that muscle mass and the ability to walk.
“The group designed a scooter they called Scoot and Smile,” Moore said. “It is a scooter powered by mechanical energy. The rider is able to peddle the scooter so instead of just mobility, they have mobility and activity which helps to keep them strong. Their design has a gear ratio just like a bicycle, so if a person does not have a lot of leg muscle, they can still power it. They also have something in their design that disconnects the wheel from the peddling, so you can park the scooter in front of the TV and peddle without it moving.
“Having strong muscles is not an issue of age; it’s an issue of activity. If we can keep people active into their senior years, it improves their quality of life; it keeps them stable and keeps them from falling. The purpose of Lego League is to get students thinking about solutions for improving life.”
The Coppell team has been together since fifth grade.
The tournament provides a competitive platform where students ages 9-14 apply teamwork and their classroom knowledge of science and technology to complete a project challenge and compete in mini-tasks or missions using robots that are individually programmed and built by each team out of LEGO®s.
Developed by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) - a nonprofit organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology - FIRST LEGO® League teaches real-world problem solving through engineering design and teamwork. In 2008, the Perot Museum became the affiliate and operational partner for the North Texas Region, and coordinates and oversees all FLL events for the North Texas area, including the Championship Robotics Tournament.
Includes Perot Museum Press Release