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Halton STEM Club team headed to FIRST Lego League World Festival

The GreenR Bots win first at Ontario West provincials in Oshawa

Five local budding engineers are Texas-bound, after taking top honours in the provincial FIRST Lego League (FLL) competition in Oshawa this month.

The GreenR Bots 45059 team — made up of members Abdurrahman Abdelhamid, Ted He, Sanjay Kolli, Sebastian Golec and Rex Li  — is the competitive stream of the Halton STEM Club, which meets a couple of nights a week at the Tech Place on North Service Road. They  placed first among the 40 teams competing in the FLL Ontario West division on Jan. 14. 

The win earns the GreenR Bots a spot at the World Festival in Houston, Texas which will host 600 teams April 19-22.

Frank He, who mentors the team along with Thomas Nguyen, explained that the boys, who are all ages 12-13, were given a strict rubric for the “innovation project” component of the competition.

“They’re not only teaching you to build robots, but they also challenge you to think up solutions,” said He of the program, noting the teams work to solve real-world problems. Working with this year’s theme of “energy”, the GreenR Bots focused on developing a model to harvest energy by positioning vertical axis wind turbines between highrise buildings.

He, a mechanical engineer at Rockwell Automation, said the kids researched the problem and possible solutions; their first idea was scrapped a month into the season. Once they settled on the new idea, they created the prototype —  some parts are handmade, some required a 3D printer —  and planned the software. They also had to develop a way to test it.

“I found out two nights before the competition the blow with the fan didn’t work,” He said of the testing phase. “So, how about we use a leaf blower? And it worked! It’s actually the correct wind speed.”

In addition to the innovation project, FLL teams participate in challenges, in which they have two and a half minutes to perform a series of missions on the task table with their robots. 

“It’s pretty challenging actually, much harder than you’d think,” said He. “It’s easy to do (the tasks) with your hands, but you put a robot there, it’s really hard to do with a robot.” 

At provincials, the GreenR Bots’ robot had a great run in the first challenge…then it quit working for the next two. They managed to come back, though, to win it all.

Aside from the trophy, the youngsters have gained a lot of soft skills, such as  teamwork, how to combine different ideas, how to think methodically and prioritize ideas and tasks, how to present their ideas, how to respect each other’s ideas and understanding how ideas adhere together. 

“Lots of times, you put yourself behind the team first; it;s not easy for them to learn all those things, they’re very young,” said He. 

He estimates the team, which has been together for about four years, has put in 150 to 200 hours of work since September. They are now preparing for the World Festival: after a virtual meeting to go over lessons learned in Oshawa, they held an in-person session last Friday. 

They are also busy fundraising for their trip. The festival runs over four days and will include speakers, workshops, demonstrations and other activities. The cost of the team registration fee is US$1,500, and they have to cover travel expenses -—for themselves and their equipment — and accommodations and practice time.

The GreenR Bots have started a GoFundMe page, and so far have raised $1,325 of their $25,000 goal. As well, they are hoping to attract some corporate sponsors to help with costs. Businesses interested in contributing to the team can email haltonstemclub@gmail.com.


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Brenda Jefferies

About the Author: Brenda Jefferies

Brenda Jefferies is Editor of BurlingtonToday. Brenda’s work has been recognized at the provincial, national and international levels, with awards for local sports, headline and editorial writing
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