Redding robotics team qualifies for state championship

The Polymechs Redding-based robotics team with Jen Siskind of Food & Water Watch at the public forum on fracking waste, at the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in Redding, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017.
The Polymechs Redding-based robotics team with Jen Siskind of Food & Water Watch at the public forum on fracking waste, at the First Church of Christ, Congregational, in Redding, on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017.

A Redding-based robotics team has again qualified for the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Connecticut State Championship. The Polymechs, a team of local fourth and sixth graders, was one of 28 teams that took part in a regional qualifying event in Shelton on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

Participating for its second year, the team earned the first-place award for Robot Design after posting the day’s highest score in the robot game, and earned one of eight “Golden Tickets” to the championship event. The Polymechs team members are Roy Krueger, 11, Robert Krueger, 9, and Ezra Schwartz, 9, of Redding and Noah Ackert, 11, of Newtown.

FIRST Lego League has three major components. First, working within the year’s given theme and guided by adult coaches, teams research and develop solutions to real-world problems, contacting experts and sharing their ideas along the way. This year’s theme is HydroDynamics — looking into ways we use, transport and store water. The Polymechs decided to look into hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and its potential to contaminate drinking water, and interviewed Dr. James Saiers, professor of hydrology at Yale University. Their solution is an Android app built with an MIT App Inventor that would allow researchers and public officials to monitor the wells of homeowners who live near fracking wells and wastewater injection sites for possible contamination from toxic chemicals and radioactive material.

As part of their research, the boys also contacted the local coordinator of Food & Water Watch, who is helping Redding to consider passing an ordinance to ban the disposal of wastewater from fracking within Redding’s town limits — joining more than 30 Connecticut towns that have already enacted similar ordinances. Along with several area organizations, the Polymechs were co-sponsors of a public educational forum in early November to learn about the potential impacts of fracking waste.

The second component of FLL involves designing, building and programming a robot using Lego Mindstorms to navigate around obstacles and accomplish missions on a tabletop game field. At the qualifying tournament, the team has multiple chances to run the robot and accumulate points, and is judged on the quality of its robot design, programming and game strategy. In its fourth run, the Polymechs earned 175 points, which was the highest score of the day and earned them the first-place award for Robot Design.

Finally, FIRST Lego League participants utilize a shared set of core values, which emphasize teamwork, the joy of sharing and discovery, respectful competition, and gracious professionalism. Globally, more than 255,000 students between the ages of 9 and 14 from nearly 90 countries take part in FIRST Lego League. Their participation gives them practical experience in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and public presentation.

For more information about FIRST Lego League, visit http://firstlegoleague.org.

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