Holy Family Primary School - Skennars Head students have made it to the \
Holy Family Primary School - Skennars Head students have made it to the \"FIRST LEGO League\" Australian National Finals in December. Contributed

School uses robots to help animals

LAST weekend, after preparing for 6 weeks, Holy Family Primary School in Skennar's Head entered two teams into the regional First LEGO League contest held at Queensland University of Technology - Gardens Point.

This year's theme was Animal Allies and concentrated on creating more positive interactions between animals and humans. Teams were required to identify a problem between animals and humans and to create a solution which was beneficial to both parties. In addition , the two teams, competing under the names iCode 22 and iCode New Dawn, were required to develop a five minute presentation to convince the judges of the feasibility of their solution, including a review of problems overcome during the design process, budget and funding considerations.

Skennars Head students Reuben Adlington, 11, and Ben Masterson, 10, are programming robots to clean up waste and debris.   Photo Cathryn McLauchlan / The Northern Star
Skennars Head students Reuben Adlington, 11, and Ben Masterson, 10, are programming robots to clean up waste and debris. Photo Cathryn McLauchlan / The Northern Star Cathryn McLauchlan

The contest, sponsored by companies including Google and Rockwell Engineering is a catalyst to inspire students to develop a love of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. A key facet of the contest requires students to design, build and program a robot built from LEGO EV3 components. Teams have 2.5 minutes for their robot to autonomously complete up to 15 separate challenges on the competition table, all of which have a theme based on animal and human interactions.

Both teams excelled on the day. iCode New Dawn (members are Brodie Viel, Jack Kirwan, Will Chapelle, Oliver Payne, Jalisa Herridge, Ben Lee, Carmen Stock, Bethany Boyd, Jada Lampard) received the prestigious Innovation Award for their idea Oceans' Angel. The team designed an animatronic Orca (a natural predator of the Great White Shark) to patrol Lennox Point. The robotic Orca would work partly by taking territory of the bay but more so by emitting electrical pulses to disturb predatory sharks. The team devised an app, a public awareness campaign and a range of merchandise to assist in funding the idea.

Skennars Head students Reuben Adlington, 11, and Ben Masterson, 10, are programming robots to clean up waste and debris.   Photo Cathryn McLauchlan / The Northern Star
Skennars Head students Reuben Adlington, 11, and Ben Masterson, 10, are programming robots to clean up waste and debris. Photo Cathryn McLauchlan / The Northern Star Cathryn McLauchlan

iCode 22 (members are Ben Masterson, Rueben Adlington, Taya Kelly, Clare Cornwell, Bridie McCowan, Jordan Nixon, Monique Crowhurst, Ruve Murdoch and Jayda Thompson) presented their idea termed Road Kill Radar to a similar panel. They proposed a series of thermal imaging cameras placed at 300 m intervals along rural roads, attached to an app to warn drivers of animals approaching roads under the cover of darkness. They suggested a sponsorship program whereby the driver would receive updates via the app from a voice termed "R.O.D.D.” who would announce statements such as "The past 100 km have been roadkill free thanks to 'Friends of the Koala and Ballina Shire Council.” The members of iCode 22 performed so well across all challenges on the day that they took out the coveted 'Champions Award.' Both teams will advance to Sydney to represent themselves and their school at the Australian National Finals to be held at Macquarie University on December 10th.

Holy Family has been running a LEGO robotics program for 12 months which reaches 180 students per week. The team's coach and robotics teacher Nick Houghton felt that the day was a huge success and thanked Macquarie University, QUT and LEGO for promoting STEM skills to students in regional and rural areas and not just in metropolitan regions.



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