Lego League impresses Fillmore Central Board with research project

Members of the First Lego Robotics Team presented their research project to the Fillmore Central School Board at its meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 27. BRETTA GRABAU/NEWS LEADER
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Coach Stuart Weist and the 10 members of the First Lego Robotics League gave a presentation to the Fillmore Central School Board last Tuesday, Nov. 27, addressing the students’ findings on a research project they will be taking to competition at Willow Creek Middle School in Rochester on Dec. 8.

Weist introduced the program describing it as a STEM program designed to teach children, in fourth through eighth grades, the values of working together in a professional environment and how to overcome challenges using new and innovative ideas.

Weist noted the program is largely funded by Lego Corporation, but is not what some might describe as a Lego club.

“Each year teams from around the world compete on a theme chosen by the First Organization using Lego Mindstorms blocks and computer software to learn basic programming and investigative skills to solve problems,” Weist shared.

The program consists of three main parts, which make up one-third of the total score. The first part is the research project and presentation, the second an evaluation of how well the students work together as a team using the First Lego Core Values and finally a competition using a robot they must design, build and program to accomplish various challenges in 2.5 minutes.

This year’s theme is “Into Orbit,” how to survive in orbit for an extended period of time. Fillmore Central’s team researched problems around growing food in space and to create a portable, collapsible and external greenhouse to be attached to the outside of the orbiting spacecraft.

Some of the problems the students addressed were the weight of the greenhouse while in space, what the greenhouse would be made of and how many plants would be taken.

Through their research, they learned about NASA’s “Veggie” system, which helps grow plants in space, and shared it would take 28 days for the plants to grow.

When asked about food preservation, they stated they could have a small refrigerator in space or put the food into vacuumed sealed bags. As for the greenhouse itself, the students planed to make it out of Mylar, which is a tough and durable material.

The greenhouse would have an air collapsible door so no chemicals could get in or out, and the house solar panels would assist in heating the greenhouse. The students identified the biggest concerns in this project would be if the greenhouse would be expanded too much it would explode or the plants would not grow correctly.

In concluding the presentation, Weist stated there were over 150 teams in the competition and this year there are a bit more.

The first competition is at a regional level, then goes on to the state, national and international levels. Most teams have an average of five members, but no more than 10 can be on one team, though there can be multiple teams from one school. This year, 13 students expressed interest in the program, but only 10 could be accepted.

Fillmore Central has been doing this program for a few years and continues to improve. It was also noted that last year the team received a coaches’ recognition award simply for showing up at the competition after not receiving all their equipment until two days before the contest.