B-P school team advances in LEGO science challenge

Photo submitted A referee goes over the robot course points with Owen Compani, left, and Giovanni Barbosa of the Broadalbin-Perth School District's Fully Charged for Rescue team at a First LEGO competition Feb. 11 in Latham.

BROADALBIN–Military and police service dogs go head-first into danger–without body armor–and almost half die of head injuries.

A seven-student Broadalbin-Perth Middle School team in a First LEGO competition this year decided to do something about that.

Eighth-grader Kade Garrison said the Piece Makers team searched exhaustively on the internet for anything to protect dogs and found nothing.

Their project, which is taking them to the third stage in the worldwide competition, was designing a head shield of stainless steel in a legging with foam padding and some neck-protecting chain mail. They even made room for whiskers and ears and created a magnetic neck strap that releases if the helmet gets caught on something. It cost less than $5.

At each level of competition, teams advance on an overall score on their projects, their use of the First LEGO core values, robot design, project design and presentation of their project. “Animal Allies” is this year’s theme.

At the Feb. 15 competition in Latham, the group admits that it was weak in programming a robot built with LEGOs to do various tasks. They are determined to score better at the next level at Dutchess County Community College in Poughkeepsie on Feb. 25. Garrison, Collin Bolebruch and Alejandro Christopher, all eighth-graders, are focusing on programming. The twin seventh-graders Joseph and Andrew Sinonds like building. Eighth-grader Mickey Staie organized the presentation with some vocalization coming from the stuffed dog, Clarkie. Cooperation is a core value. Karen Garrison and Tammy Staie are the team coaches.

“We discovered how well we can work together as friends,” said Kade Garrison.

The Piece Makers is one of two Broadalbin-Perth teams to progress to Poughkeepsie after succeeding in two other competitions in the Hudson Valley region. The other, Fully Charged for Rescue, mostly fourth- and fifth-graders, designed an Emergency Evacuation Storage Kit/Carrier for household pets, equipped with a GPS tracker.

Fully Charged comprises fifth-graders Ethan Waufle, Charles Santon and Owen Compani and four-graders Giovanni Barboza, Jake Morin and William Ribar. Erin Compani and Dawn Santon are the coaches.

“The students are using all aspects of their education in the competition,” said Compani, a school psychologist. “They have a lot of fun and put in a tremendous amount of energy.”

The Beaver Bots’ project was a wooden coyote scented with real coyote urine to scare away beavers from building dams near residential areas, which can cause flooding of roads and property. They won the Judges Award at Proctor High School in Utica for being “rising stars,” impressing judges in all areas of competition, even though they weren’t the highest scoring. The Inspiration Award at SUNY Polytechnic Institute was for essentially the same reason.

Beaver Bots members, consisting mostly of four-graders, are Haley Tomlinson, Jillian Sanford, Emma Murphy, Laurel Mitchell, Nico Georgelos, Ryan Michalski and Travis Mitchell. Coaches are Beth Tomlinson and district superintendent Stephen Tomlinson.

This is the district’s third year in the First LEGO competition. Almost 60 students participated on 10 teams this year. John Aery, an art teacher who is the mentor-coordinator of the teams, said the district became involved because the superintendent and school board “recognized the opportunities it gives our students to be innovative and work in a small-group setting.”

“The programming aspect allows for students to apply math and engineering skills in a fun and engaging way as they plan which ‘missions’ they want their robot to accomplish,” he said.

“With the research project that’s also required of teams, students are discovering ways to come up with solutions to real-world problems and are sharing their hard work in regional competitions.”

If the Pierce Makers and Fully Charged succeed in the Poughkeepsie competition, they will go on to St. Louis for the finals.