4-H’ers tackle real world challenges in Regional FIRST LEGO League Competition

Posted January 15, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Eight Plymouth County 4-H’ers, Ote and Kara Albrecht, Chance and Arianna Irwin, Sally and Claudia Probst, and Vivian and Renae Zynda, have successfully completed a new adventure by competing in the Sioux City Regional FIRST LEGO League Qualifier on Dec. 15, 2012.

The “Navigators of Extreme Robot DeviceZ”, otherwise known as NERDZ, spent the past three months participating in the FIRST LEGO League 2012 Senior Solutions Challenge.

The NERDZ programmed a LEGO Mindstorm robot to perform various tasks and researched ways to improve the quality of life for seniors by helping them continue to be independent, engaged and connected in their communities. The team conducted research including interviewing senior citizens and discovered that older adults are at a higher risk for injury or death due to burns and fires related to cooking.

The NERDZ designed the “Smart Stages Stove” by incorporating existing features and one new feature into a new stove design. The “Smart Stages Stove” has a large control panel, easy to use controls, a remote control, motion sensor and automatic shutoff, motorized oven racks, silicone guards on the front of each rack, and a see-through silicone covering on the oven door.

The team chose Joyce Renken to be their senior partner and assist them in identifying a specific challenge and a workable solution. Renae Zynda stated, “Working with Joyce has given me a new perspective on the challenges that seniors face every day. She was a great senior partner and answered all our questions big or small.”

The team’s hard work paid off when they competed at the Sioux City Regional FIRST LEGO League Qualifier in Sioux City on December 15. Mary Albrecht, coach of the NERDZ, was proud of the results.

“The team placed first in robot performance and got an honorable mention/2nd place in Core Values judging. Only four teams advanced to state this year and we weren’t one of them, but the kids learned so much this year. They improved their programming skills and learned a lot about fire safety and technology.”

As NERDZ member Vivian Zynda said, “I learned that programming the robot to do one task from beginning to end gave me a greater sense of accomplishment rather than starting a bunch and not finishing them all.”

Ote Albrecht also enjoyed programming the robot. “Programming a robot is a challenge because there is no right or wrong way to do it. You can use your creativity to think of an innovative way to solve a mission that your robot has to do.”

Every year, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) sponsors a challenge for youth in fourth – eighth grades where they are immersed in real-world science and technology challenges. Teams design their own solution to a current scientific question or problem and build autonomous LEGO robots that perform a series of missions. Through their participation, children develop valuable life skills and discover exciting career possibilities while learning that they can make a positive contribution to society.

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth participates in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations, and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach – Plymouth County office at www.extension.iastate.edu/plymouth or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4H.

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