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All-girl LEGO League team proposes flood solution

Posted: January 26, 2014 - 6:02pm  |  Updated: January 27, 2014 - 9:40am
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Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion  Lego League pieces and parts are placed in specific spots on a board where student-programmed robots can interact with them.
Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion Lego League pieces and parts are placed in specific spots on a board where student-programmed robots can interact with them.

A local group of preteens have challenged Mother Nature’s wrath with a possible solution for an Alaskan village’s flood problem.

With “Nature’s Fury” as this year’s theme for the FIRST LEGO League competition a team from Interior Distance Education of Alaska Homeschool designed a fix for Galena’s natural disaster last spring.

The all-girl team — a rare sight in the LEGO League world — took first place in the project area at the local competition in November 2013 at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai qualifying the girls for the state competition in Anchorage.

The Legoettes competed against 55 other teams from throughout the state in project, core values, robot design and robot performance. The team of six, five of who were new to LEGO League this fall, finished 12th in the robot mission competition and got an extemporary ranking on their project, Dawn Hoogenboom, adult leader said.

“That’s not bad for a first-year team,” she said.

The girls began working on the project near the beginning of the school year with the help of leaders Hoogenboom and Billie Loehr, who have both worked with LEGO League teams for a handful of years.

With the entire project focused on natural disasters, the girls not only created a solution to Galena’s flooding issue, but also programed a robot to complete missions related to natural disasters.

Rebekah Petty, 12 worked on programing the robot.

“It’s kind of challenging to get the robot to do exactly what you want,” she said.

Each team is allotted 2 minutes and 30 seconds to run the missions like getting the LEGO truck filled with supplies to the LEGO people at the end of the mat. The team members are only allowed to touch the robot to prepare it for each mission when it is in home base otherwise the team gets a touch penalty. If that happens, an obstacle is set up on the plane runway on the board, so the team doesn’t get “clear runway” points, Loehr said.

The girls, wearing their team uniforms — pink sashes and sequin tiaras — pair up and take turns leading different missions making sure to line up the robot so it goes exactly where it’s programmed to go.

For their presentation, which has a time limit of five minutes, each girl holds a large photo pertaining to the flooding in Galena or their solution and takes turns telling the judges about their project.

According to the group’s project report, the village of Galena flooded last year due to an ice jam stopping up the Yukon River causing waters to rise and flooded the village.

The Legoettes proposed solution is to construct a pier structure made up of heated concrete columns spaced at 12-foot intervals to catch large ice slabs and melt making the pieces too small to create a jam. The pillars would run on geothermal energy or natural gas.

Mackenzie Hoogenboom, 9, said the group decided against solar panels as an energy source because it’s not sunny enough in Alaska.

The project report also proposes making use of a global satellite system as an early warning system. The satellite can measure the thickness of the ice and let residents know via radio transmission when the ice becomes a threat.

 

Kaylee Osowski can be reached at kaylee.osowski@peninsulaclarion.com.

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