Students compete in super tournament at SPSU
by Marcus E. Howard
mhoward@mdjonline.com
January 19, 2011 12:00 AM | 1375 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The First Lego League Super Regional tournament at Southern Polytechnic State University included a robotics demonstration and display of group science and technology projects. The GENIUS team, comprised of several Girl Scout troops from the Cobb area, created a backup system for the electric wheelchair of one of their friends, a 10-year-old boy with spinal muscular atrophy. Above: Amanda Pham, 12, daughter of Linda and Jeff Pham of Marietta, and Aidan Kedzierski, 12, daughter of Lydia and Mark Kedzierski of Marietta, explain how the wheelchair camera system works.<br>Staff/Todd Hull
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MARIETTA - About 400 students, parents and mentors from metro Atlanta and north Georgia attended the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology LEGO League Super Regional competition on the campus of Southern Polytechnic State University.

It was one of three FLL robotics competitions conducted around the state to encourage students ages 9 to 14 to learn more about science and technology. Several teams from Cobb competed.

This year's theme, "Body Forward," dealt with biomedical engineering.

A total of 40 teams of up to 10 students each, along with an adult coach, spent the day competing with their robots comprised of LEGO MINDSTORMS. The competition involved creating innovative solutions to biomedical-related problems, such as applying a cast to a broken bone and installing a pacemaker to a heart.

Teams were also required to complete a research project, identifying an area of the body and a problem associated with it, before developing a solution or way to help.

"Many students think they can't really do math or science," said Mary Roberts, event coordinator.

She said the competition is a great way to teach research and presentation skills, as well as valuable life lessons about hard work and team work.

One Cobb team, Girls Exploring New Ideas Using Science, was made up of six Girl Scouts members from east Cobb. For their research project, the team decided to help a friend who uses an electric wheelchair and has problems seeing what is behind him when he needs to move in reverse.

So GENIUS created a backup system that utilizes a camera and sensors so that the 10-year-old boy can see what's behind him. The team eventually plans to work with Cobb resident, Dr. Stephen Sprigle of Georgia Tech's Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access, to install a permanent camera system on their friend's wheelchair.

"It uses a camera to get a clear view of what is behind you and it's displayed on the monitor and then it also uses sensors to tell how far away something is behind you," explained GENIUS member Annika Garbers, 13.

Teams began preparing for the competition early last fall. Many students spent up to six hours a week working on their projects. The teams that competed Saturday previously qualified in their regional qualifiers.

East Cobb Middle School was represented by two teams at the competition. Fred Stillwell, a teacher and coach, said it's important to get youth to learn to think about how technology works in order for our nation to meet the challenges of the future.

But ultimately, the competition allowed many participants such as 12-year-old Tyler Smith, to just have fun doing something they enjoyed.

"Usually with other sports you're focused on winning and other people aren't that nice to you," she said after watching her team's robot compete. "I'm having fun with competing."

Sixteen teams from the super regional competition advanced to be among 48 teams that will compete at the state finals on Jan. 29 at Georgia Tech.

Among them are Short Circuits from East Cobb Middle School, Kemp Cougars from Kemp Elementary, Robo Warriors from Teasley Elementary, Rockin' Robots from Rocky Mount Elementary, GENIUS, Dominators from Mabry Middle School, and Dolphin Droids from Daniell Middle School.
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