Bright Blue Builders win award at robotics event
An ambitious wall-climbing robot that worked perfectly in front of the judges during a design review session was key to the Bright Blue Builders' success at the FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament at The Gordon School in East Providence on Saturday. The team won the Robot Design Award and advanced to the state championship to be held January 14 at Roger Williams University in Bristol. The Bright Blue Builders, who meet at the home of coach Joseph Chaves in Cranston, included: Tyler Shammas and Rowan Chaves, both of Cranston, and Jack Silva and Lucien Chidester, of Warren. Mary Rapien, Chidester's mother, is the co-coach. The team has been meeting since September to create a robot from the LEGO Ev3 kit that can score points by completing up to 15 missions on a field covered with models made of LEGO elements. All of the missions relate to the "Animal Allies" theme. The "Biomimicry" mission, aka hanging the robot on the wall, mirrored how roboticists study the movement of animals, like the White Gecko, to create robots that can perform tasks humans cannot. The Bright Blue Builder's robot "goes to the wall and all the weight of the robot can be lifted by the attachment, so it's hanging on the wall." said Shammas. Chidester explained that the attachment was built with a worm gear and a tube rack. The gearing lifted the robot up the attachment and onto the wall, then kept the robot from slipping back down again. Silva added, "We were the first ones to do it. Other teams saw it and they were like 'Wow' you can do that." This is the team's third year, and they made a strategic decision to forgo the lower point missions to focus on the missions that offer larger point values, such as the wall climbing. The team thought their use of the gyro sensor also impressed the judges. A gyro sensor measures the robot's rotational motion and changes in orientation, a technology that's real world function includes keeping a rider from pitching off a Hoverboard scooter or Segway. As Chidester explained, if the robot "hits a bump and accidentally goes the way we don't want it, the gyro sensor puts it back on track. For example, if we ran over the manure, which we did a couple of times, it puts us back right on track to go back where we want to." "The manure" was a scoring element in the FIRST LEGO League "Animal Allies" robot game, and consisted of brown LEGO pieces. The Bright Blue Builders are already planning changes to their robot for the FIRST LEGO League state championship in January. They want to improve their biomimicry attachment, which worked perfectly when they were in front of the judges, but not as well during the timed robot game matches. They also plan to create a solution for the animal exchange mission, which would earn an additional 60 points. They will also continue working on their research project, another part of the FIRST LEGO League program. For the project, teams need to identify a problem related to the theme and think up an innovative solution. For the "Animal Allies" season, the Bright Blue Builders focused on keeping bees healthy. Perhaps not surprisingly, their solution included a robot, although not the one they entered in the competition. Rowan Chaves said their bee-protecting robot would be tiny and placed on flowers, so that when a bee flew in, "Our robot will brush the mite off the bees and kill them with heat, which sticks on by static electricity." Chidester explained that mites have a lower heat tolerance than bees so the heat kills the mites but not the bees. While the Bright Blue Builders won the Robot Design Award, the Jamestown Robowolves won the Champion's Award, which is the event's top honor. To win the Champion's Award, the team must excel in all areas of the competition: robot design, the robot game and the project. They must also demonstrate FIRST LEGO League core values: working together as a team, honoring the spirit of friendly competition, understanding that they discover is more important than what they win, and having fun. The other teams receiving awards were: S.M.A.R.T. 2.0 and S.M.A.R.T., both from St. Mary Academy Bay View, won 2nd place champions, 2nd place robot game, and 1st place project and 1st place robot performance, respectively. The Track Attackers, from Lincoln School in Providence won 1st place in Core Values. Coach Chaves demonstrated the FIRST LEGO League core values when he took a longer view of his team's success, "I love the robotics but they really have been learning how to listen to each other, to help each other." The Gordon School FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament was the first of the season. There are qualifying tournaments on December 3 at Ricci Middle School in North Providence; December 10 at both All Saints Academy in Middletown and Portsmouth Middle School in Portsmouth, and on December 17 at Pier School in Narragansett. On December 17, 3 teams from Warwick, St. Peter Tri-Parish School, St. Rose of Lima School and the RoboSquids, a home-based team, will compete. In all, 40 teams of the 80 registered for the FIRST LEGO League season will advance from the 5 qualifying tournaments to the FIRST LEGO League Rhode Island state championship on January 14, 2017 in the field house at Roger Williams University. The winner of the State Championship will compete in the FIRST World Festival in St. Louis, MO from April 26-29, 2017. FIRST LEGO League Rhode Island is managed by Rhode Island Students of the Future, a non-profit organization that engages students in science, technology, engineering, art and math through youth robotics. For more information on the FIRST LEGO League Rhode Island, including a complete list of awards from the qualifying tournaments, visit www.risf.net.