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Wellington kids ponder cyborg future for Whidbey's elderly | KUDOS

Wellington Day School students on the Lego Scouts team participated in a state-wide competition to design and build something that helps the elderly.  - Photo courtesy of Christine Mulcahy
Wellington Day School students on the Lego Scouts team participated in a state-wide competition to design and build something that helps the elderly.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Christine Mulcahy

A group of Whidbey Island kids younger than 9 schemed to help the elderly at a pre-robotics event.

The Wellington Lego Scouts, a group of 17 students involved in Washington State’s Junior FIRST Lego League (JrFLL), traveled to Seattle on March 30 to participate in the exposition at Century Link Event Center.

Four teams of students, ages 6 to 9, participated in the pre-robotics event. This year’s theme was senior solutions and each team researched the challenges facing the elderly members of their community.

“Research is a foundational element of the scientific process, but it’s not always easy to get a room full of elementary-aged students to focus on research when they would rather be creating Lego models,” said Christine Mulcahy, the Lego Scouts’ coach.

The students researched motorized solutions that could assist seniors in their daily lives. Teams built a model out of Lego blocks and a battery-operated motor to demonstrate how seniors’ lives could be made easier with motorized devices.

One team developed a model of a chair lift which helps seniors navigate flights of stairs in their homes. Another team created a bus to help seniors travel throughout their communities. The third team designed a motorized wheelchair to help seniors get around a shopping mall. And the fourth team constructed a moving sidewalk in an airport. Each team completed a display board to demonstrate their research, materials, plans, results and team members.

The students were mentored by Wellington’s 10 to 14-year-old FIRST Lego League team which won awards at its competition last fall for team presentation.

“This was a key learning year for our young team, and though our robot performed well, our key strengths were in the judging and presentation portion of the event,” said Sarah Guthrie-Steinberg, FIRST Lego League coach. “We are so proud of these students for their teamwork and gracious professionalism. They have continued to stay after school every Tuesday to mentor the younger kids, even though their competitive season ended in December.”

At Sunday’s event, each team was visited by a judge and practiced their presentation skills and teamwork strengths while demonstrating their models to the judges. Every participant was rewarded for their efforts and contributions with a medal from JrFLL during an awards ceremony at the end of the event, before watching robots launch Frisbees at targets in the “Ultimate Ascent” challenge — the grand finale of the FIRST Lego League senior high school robotics competition.

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