Building teamwork

Six eighth-graders from Memorial Middle School at Minot Air Force Base won first place for teamwork at the FIRST LEGO League championship at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks on Feb. 2.

Team coach Lisa Murphy said the students have been meeting after school since September to work on their project.

The competition calls for the middle school students to come up with an innovative technological solution for a problem. This year’s competition called for kids to come up with a “senior solution” or a way that robotic technology might help the elderly.

The team members, Jakim Brown, Christian Jimenez, Ethan Rickards, Colin Wiedermann, Abigail Keys and Matthew Alcozer, did some brainstorming. Jakim interviewed his grandmother about some of the challenges she faces in her everyday life and she mentioned driving as one difficulty. The students discovered that, as a driver gets older, there is a greater likelihood for he or she to get in an accident. The students then looked at technology that is currently available to help with those problems, such as global positioning system technology, voice-activated systems and even a car that is able to parallel park itself.

The students came up with an idea they think might be the the next step in those technologies: an “automated guidance system.”

“It’s a star-shaped device to go under the hood of a car that would help control your vehicle,” said Murphy, who said it is just a dream for now but the kids created a model of their “AGS” system using computer-aided design software and printed it out using a three-dimensional printer. If it really worked, the kids decided the senior citizen driver could tell his car to buckle his seatbelt for him, close and open his trunk and do other things that might be hard for drivers as they get older.

Murphy said the students also had to prepare a presentation prior to the competition that explained how they developed the project. They explained the problem, the solution and the process of creating the AGS.

“They each took a part in explaining it,” said Murphy.

The students’ FIRST LEGO League team was made possible by a partnership between STARBASE North Dakota and Memorial Middle School. The team was funded by donations from community organizations and private donors.

Thirty-eight teams from North Dakota and Minnesota competed at the event. Other area participants included Surrey, Four Winds Middle School of Fort Totten, Central Middle School of Devils Lake, North Star School of Cando, Washburn Elementary School and Fessenden-Bowdon School.

Murphy said she’s proud of her students and everything they have learned.

“I am so proud of their hard work and all they have been able to accomplish together,” said Murphy.

Clint Ericson also coached the team.