The Hippie Pandas participated last week at the FIRST World Championship where they won 1st place in the Gracious Professionalism Award. The Gracious Professionalism™ Award sponsored by Johnson & Johnson celebrates outstanding sportsmanship and continuous gracious professionalism in the heat of competition, both on and off the playing field. Read below how FIRST LEGO League team 4655 the Hippie Pandas prepared for competition this season!
Looking for an after-school program that not only helps young people discover the fun in science and technology but also builds self-confidence, knowledge, and valuable life skills? FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL®) provides students ages 9-14 just that opportunity. Take, for example, the Hippie Pandas – Ashley, Carolyn, Jodie, and Emily – a FIRST LEGO League team that just won their first-ever bid to the FIRST World Festival, a culminating celebration of the FLL season. This team of four girls, ranging in age from 11-14, loves to compete in the FLL competitions because, as Ashley says, “We love the energy and having fun cheering and dancing and learning about other teams’ projects.” Not only are they having fun, they are learning about everything from robotics to this year’s challenge theme, which is all about food safety.
In FLL, teams use the LEGO Education MINDSTORMS® robotics system to design a robot that can solve challenges and complete missions on a LEGO-based playing field. The girls start by brainstorming ideas on how to do mission tasks. They then develop robot prototypes and attachments to test their theories. There’s also a bit of overall strategy that comes into play as the girls consider which missions can be combined for additional points. Sometimes, it comes down to location, while at other times, the ability to utilize the same attachment is the major factor. During this process, some of the girls discover their talents are in programming, and others enjoy attachment creation or idea generation. No matter what their strengths are, they are all learning to work together, build, program, and solve problems creatively, all important twenty-first-century skills. Cheryl Lawniczak, the coach of the Hippie Pandas, said, “I love to see the girls try programming or building an attachment and to see their pride and excitement when they succeed!”
The Hippie Pandas used their robotics knowledge to participate in the 2011-2012 FLL Food Factor Challenge, where they were instructed to investigate their food and find a way to improve its safe delivery. As part of this project, the Hippie Pandas researched the steps taken for getting milk from the farm to the table. They learned that problems can occur while pasteurizing milk, so they designed a solar-powered milk pasteurization system that is both effective and inexpensive. Through the team’s determination and help from their coach and her contacts at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), their pasteurization system will be implemented in a village in Nicaragua. Cheryl and her contacts used their expertise in water treatment and knowledge from working in developing countries to help the Hippie Pandas understand solar pasteurization. The girls rolled mats, made reflectors, and made wax indicators because thermometers are expensive in Nicaragua. According to Ashley, “The people in Nicaragua will have safer milk than the raw milk they are drinking now. The solar pasteurizer is not very expensive, so it will not cost the people a lot of money for safe milk.”
The Hippie Pandas’ hard work and innovative idea certainly paid off, as the girls attended the World Festival! At the event, the girls met with teams from around the world and investigated the solutions those teams devised. As Emily said, “The program is really fun even if you aren’t really interested in robotics or programming; there are other things that you are able to do such as researching, designing presentations, and working on the projects.” It is this sort of teamwork that has propelled the Hippie Pandas to where they are today. Owner and Vice Chairman of the LEGO Group, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, sums up the FIRST experience best: "FLL encourages children to design, construct, and program their own intelligent inventions. This allows them not only to understand technology but to become masters of it.”
For more information on FIRST LEGO League, visit www.LEGOeducation.us/Competitions.
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