The Viper Bots

Early days of building the robot

Early days of building the robot

This year, our elementary school introduced a new Girl Scouts robotics team.

I was asked if I might like to help out. I like programming and Legos, so I thought it sounded like it could be fun. I didn’t realize I would end up being the team’s coach. Before long I was receiving boxes from Lego in the mail.

The girls named their team the “Viper Bots.” None of us really knew what we were doing, and we had gotten a bit of late start.

The big First Lego League (FLL) qualifier was set for November. Pretty quickly it became clear that just meeting one hour a week would not be enough time to build the robot, program it to complete a mission or two, and develop a project that solved a trash-related problem.

So, we doubled our meetings, and sometimes the girls got together on weekend evenings.

The Viper Bots' finished robot. It has a "grabber" attachment, but we couldn't get it to work right at the competition.

The Viper Bots’ finished robot. It has a “grabber” attachment, but we couldn’t get it to work right at the competition.

The girls built a two-wheeled robot with a rear metal roller ball. They successfully programmed it to go down the table, hit a button, and come back.

The harder part was the project. We considered several possible problems in our community: what to do about furniture that gets thrown away, finding a way to reuse plastic water bottles, etc. But ultimately, we turned the girls’ attention to their own school. They saw that everyone at school from teachers to students to staff, were putting recyclable stuff into the trash, even though recycling cans were available in each room.

The girls’ solution to this problem was to create a campaign to convince students and teachers at their school to stop putting recyclables into the trash, using posters and slogans like “Put it in the right bin so the world can win.”

We hurriedly wrote presentations and practiced. Finally the day of the qualifier arrived. It was a long day, but lots of fun.

The Vogt Bots didn’t advance to the next room, but they DID beat all other teams in their division to win a “Project Award.”

All in all it was a big learning experience for us all. The team is still meeting, but with the qualifier out of the way, we’re taking it easier.

Jadzia and Jossie work on building the Lego models for the competition

Jadzia and Jossie work on building the Lego models for the competition

About Josh Renaud

I'm the Emperor of the Renaud Empire, which is to say that I'm the husband of a Boliviana and the father of three daughters and one son. When I'm not conquering lands and expanding borders, I'm a newspaper designer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Find me on Twitter (@Kirkman) or Google+.
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