Friday, March 23, 2012

Running the Robots

By Dr. Robert W. Meditz

In Pamplona, Spain they run with the bulls, participants hoping to pass them by while avoiding their horns. Here in NYC the participants run the robots, hoping to score the fish while avoiding the bacteria. Not an easy task considering that these kids had to build a Lego robot, program it to do several different tasks, then change the attachments to get the right tool for the job, all in a run of less than 2.5 minutes.  That’s not all.  They had to discuss the technical aspects of their robot, research food safety in depth and come up with a unique solution to a specific problem, then present this material in a compelling and interesting way, all while functioning as a unified and cohesive team.  The kids started working on this in September, spending countless hours almost every Saturday afternoon, and even more time at home, building, researching, preparing, and having fun with friends, new and old. 

This year the Forest Hills Robotic League sponsored 2 teams for children from ages 6-9 in the Junior First Lego League and 5 teams for children from ages 9-14 in the First Lego League.  The FHRL had a total of 12 children in the JFLL and 34 children in the FLL.  These are the largest numbers of teams and children from any group by far, and one of the very few groups that is not affiliated with a school.  Pretty amazing for a 6 year old community based volunteer group!  But the amazing feats of the FHRL don’t end with its meteoric growth.
Both of our Junior teams presented their work at the NYC wide JFLL Expo at NYU Poly in February. Team Lego Monsters built a chocolate factory with a motion sensor triggered chocolate making machine.  Their enthusiasm won them the award for Team Spirit.
Team Club Builders developed wonderful gear driven cupcake machines. They won the Food Preparation Stars award for this revolutionary model.  This qualified both teams to present at the Jacob Javits Convention Center on March 18.  What amazing work from such a young group of kids! 

Among the over 30 teams at the Queens Qualifying Tournament at the George J. Ryan Middle School, MS 216, on January 28 were all 5 FHRL FLL teams.  Team Mindstorm Mechanics improved food safety education by designing a video game called “The Quest for the Golden Rice”; to progress in the game players have to correctly answer questions and shoot food contaminates. This free game can be found at

Team Robo Squad focused on making ground beef packaging safer.  Their four pronged solution includes using sharklet bacterial suppressant plastic wrap, replacing oxygen with carbon dioxide to minimize bacterial growth, nano technology super strong plastic to decrease breaks, and individual temperature and humidity sensors to detect improper storage conditions.

Team Grip researched how to keep ice cream cold, and thus safe, for transport to school until lunch by developing a portable ice cream freezer bento box chilled by a semi-conductor based thermal electric module.

Team Planetary Forces studied how to most safely handle meat. They found that it was best to handle meat as little as possible and that using hand sanitizer with gloves resulted in the least contamination., Food Fighters looked into the issue of making raw milk safer without pasteurization by developing an udder washer built using antimicrobial resins along with a UV LED sterilizing filter. 

You must be wondering how all this amazing work was received by the judges at the Queens Qualifying Tournament.  Really well, with the FHRL coming home with 4 awards!!!  Team Grip, our only all girl team, won the Judges Award.  Planetary Forces won First Place for Robot Performance.

Team Food Fighters won Second Place for Robot Performance and won First Place overall with the Champion’s Award! This was the highest award ever won by a FHRL team! These awards qualified these 3 teams to continue on to the city-wide competition at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Over 80 teams qualified to compete in the FLL event at Javits.  The grueling day started at 8 and went well past 5.  The teams were judged for teamwork, research, technical skills, and robot performance.  In the spirit of “coopertition”, cooperation with each other while still competing against each other, each FHRL team loudly and visibly supported the other.  It was a sea of green at Javits, the FHRL color, and not just leftovers from St. Patrick’s Day, the day before. The green section of the bleachers was heard all the way back to Forest Hills when the first award of the day was announced - the Food Fighters won Third Place for Robot Performance!  

Food Fighters, winners of the Champions Award at the FLL Queens Qualifying Tournament

Front row: E.N, E.N, Joseph Patti, Kevin Walter, Gabriel Treitmeier-McCarthy, Zachary Smith, Max Treitmeier Meditz, Caleb Yoshida
Back row: David Smith, Coach K.N., Kyle Ni, Monica Treitmeier-McCarthy, Caroline Walter
The whole process, building the robot, programming it, doing the research, writing the presentation, and performing the skit, was an amazing experience for all FHRL teams,  The children learned many new technical and scientific skills, valuable life lessons on teamwork, cooperation, and competition, all while having fun with friends. The entire experience was an overwhelming win for everyone involved in the FHRL!

For more information on the FHRL please see our website at


1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful article. All the children and teens involved in the FHRL are amazing!!
    Lisa Brody