Metropolitan Section Sponsors Westchester Putnam All Girl team for First Lego League (FLL) Completion
By Mike Melone
Met Section for the past two years has provided $500.00 to sponsor the TECHNO GIRLS, who represent a diverse group of Girl Scouts ages 9 to 14 from the entire Westchester Putnam area. This year’s team consisted of a group of 11 girls (10 team members and 1 junior coach) along with their 3 volunteer mentors (head couch and 2 technical advisors). Their quest to compete in the Hudson Regional First Lego League (FLL) tournament, which would take place in March 2006, actually began in October 2005, where the entire team met and worked together every Saturday and then halfway through the year, added Tuesday and Thursday after school.
The team knew a strong commitment was necessary to enter this competitive arena dominated by school districts with the resources to back sponsor them. The TECHNO GIRLS entered the regional competition with a very positive attitude, and many of the values FLL wishes to see exemplified in the teams that compete, were already incorporated in their everyday lives as Girl Scouts. The TECHNO GIRLS are a group of young women who not only had an interest in Robotics Engineering Programming or Marine Biology, but they were the finest example of what leaders always try to encourage: to be Girl Scouts who are a sister to every scout, who respect authority, who use resources wisely, and who make the world a better place.
In preparation for the Four Hudson Regional FLL Tournament the girls had many concepts to learn in basic engineering, robotics and programming. It was a very hands on approach. They learned mainly through trial and error, mastering some concepts and discarding others. No one team member ever took the limelight; it was always a group effort with all experiencing the joys of success or the misery of failure along the way.
The FLL event was held at Pace University on Sunday March 12, 2006. The FLL event was organized by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a multi national non-profit organization where goal is to make science, math, engineering and technology fun for children. The event each year had a theme in which the challenge was to design and build a Robot using the Lego’s Mindstorm System. The kit had a programmable controller called the RCX in which the team needed to learn a programming language in order to communicate a commands through and Infra-Red (IR) tower. There was an entire challenge course that had to be constructed out of Lego pieces then secured on a large mat that every team received when they registered to compete.
The final challenge was to solve a real-world problem and come up with an innovative solution and a creative way of presenting that solution to a panel of judges. The teams that competed were judged in many different areas which included:
- Research Presentation, Creativity and Quality
- Robot Design and Performance
- Team work and Team Spirit
Their research project to build a reef ball was truly an effort of tremendous passion and dedication requiring an intense research effort. They meet with Anne Kitchell, Marine Biologist and Watershed Planner for the Center for Watershed Protection in Maryland to exchange ideas and see if their theories for a solution were viable. They applied for and received a grant from the Reef Ball Foundation in North Carolina. They received donations from local companies in Westchester and Putnam for the supplies needed and even found someone to donate space for the proper construction of the Reef Ball, but the project didn’t end there.
An alliance was made with J.T. Bochm, an Aquarist working with the River Project in New York City, where they have a marine science field station at Pier 26 on the lower west side of Manhattan. The Reef Ball, the TECHNO GIRLS built will be deployed in this estuary. Initial deployment of the Reef Ball will occur in the late spring when the water temperature increases. Monthly monitoring of the Reef Ball is part of a future commitment by the TECHNO GIRLS. Their project will be ongoing to provide a valuable contribution to the Hudson Region helping to make a difference. A Reef Ball is a designed artificial reef. It is used to replicate a natural reef which creates a healthier environment for marine life. It is the TECHNON GIRLS hope that their Reef Ball will attract Oyster’s, which are the Ocean’s natural filter.
Along their journey, they sought out local author Mark Kurlansky, who wrote the book, The Big Oyster. Mr. Kurlansky after hearing about the TECHNO GIRLS project was amazed at the type of activities Girl Scouts are doing today. He personally signed a copy of his new book to the TECHNO GIRLS with the following encouraging words, “I hope you replenish the whole estuary.”
All their hard work and dedication truly paid off. At the Regional Competition, they competed with 25 other teams, and won the top award, The Director’s Award which signified overall excellence in all the categories listed above. Along with the Director’s Award, the team placed first in the Research Presentation and Creativity Category.
The FIRST Lego League event at Pace University then qualified the TECHNO GIRLS to represent the Lower Hudson Region in the International FLL World festival, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia at the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center from April 26th to April 29th 2006. The TECHNO GIRLS, one of only 3 “all girl” teams who took part in this competition, was one of five teams who represented New York State. They competed against 80 teams from 30 Countries around the world, and with their gracious professionalism successfully gained the respect and admiration of many including the teams from Connecticut, Alaska and Holland who participated with the TECHNO GIRLS in an alliance mission where they cooperatively worked on a mission assignment in Robotics and scored high marks as a joint team and placed 5th in the overall Mission competition.
Yes, the Girl Scouts of Westchester Putnam are doing a great job in providing the opportunity for developing the future scientists and engineers for our society. All of us who were involved with the TECHNO GIRLS are truly proud of what they accomplished and are looking forward to what can be achieved in the near future.