Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Artificial Intelligence?

Robert W. Meditz

Nothing artificial here! This is pure unadulterated grey matter firing non-stop, connecting via white matter in unique ways. Young brain power harnessed collectively to solve medical problems in imaginative new ways, while having fun with friends at the same time. All this through, believe it or not, Lego blocks and programmable robots along with the dedication of the Forest Hills Robotics League (FHRL) coaches and parents encouraging and guiding the kids under the auspices of the International FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League. The theme this year was Body Forward, about exploring the world of biomedical engineering to improve our lives.

Months of hard work, masked as play, were required to build and program the Lego robots, research the topics of interest, and create an imaginative and entertaining presentation. The teams heard discussions by a dietician, Emergency Medical Technician, bio-engineer, and several physicians discussing cardiology, neurology, and oncology. A lovely pot-luck dinner was held before the holidays, allowing the children, coaches, and parents time to really get acquainted before the final push preparing for the Queens qualifying round of the FIRST Lego League competition.

Over thirty teams competed at the Queens qualifying round held at Aviation High School in January.  The FHRL was the only community based group represented, all the others were sponsored by schools. The FHRL also had 4 teams competing, the most of any sponsoring organization. Even more impressive was that 3 of the 4 FHRL teams won awards and thus qualified for the NYC wide event held on March 13 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.  There they competed against nearly ninety other qualifying round winning teams from all across the 5 boroughs at this free event which was open to the public.  What is absolutely sensational is that two of the three FHRL teams along with both FHRL junior teams entered in the city wide competition won awards!!!  This was a truly impressive showing for the all volunteer, unaffiliated, and non-profit FHRL!

The city wide event also included a competition for children in Kindergarten through second grade, the Junior First Lego League.  Both of the FHRL’s junior teams were represented, included among them one of our younger Pack 349 Cub Scouts - Owen Tan, and both teams won awards!  The Club Builders won for Best Team Spirit and Lego Monsters won the Technology Award.

The Planetary Forces team members of the FHRL are also all Cub Scouts, one from Pack 96, the others all from our very own Pack 349. Their research project was to use nanobots, tiny robots, to cut away and remove atherosclerotic plaque from the coronary arteries and then replace the damaged endothelium. Their presentation focused on the need to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease through proper diet and exercise. Their robot won second place for Performance in Queens and fourth at Javits for their Research Presentation.  Congratulations to John Lewandowski, Max Treitmeier Meditz, E.N., Gabriel Treitmeier-McCarthy, Ethan Tsou, Kevin Walter, Gabriel Yengle, and Caleb Yoshida.

Mindstorm Mechanics studied the use of echolocation to allow the blind to ambulate safely. They won first prize in the Research segment of the competition in Queens and fourth in Robot Design at Javits.  Team Robo Squad worked on solving the problem of neuronal conduction in multiple sclerosis, and won fourth place for Robot Performance in Queens. The fourth team, IBots, researched the use of nanopatches to deliver therapy to help cure cancer.

The FHRL was founded in 2006 by Iffat Mai, an alumnus of MIT. The other coaches who devote countless hours of their time to the children include: Lisa Brody, Howard Lee, John Lewandowski, C. Ngai, K.Ngai, Jane Tsou, and Stella Wang.  At present there are 41 children between the ages of 9 and 14 in the FHRL and 11 children between the ages of 5 and 8 in the FH Junior League.  More information about the FHRL and Junior League can be found on their website at www.foresthillslego.com.

Many, many thanks to the organizers, coaches, and volunteers for opening new vistas to our youth, making science, technology, and learning exciting and rewarding, building camaraderie and a team ethos, all the while making the entire experience fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment