What does Lego mean to you? Did you play and build with Lego in your youth? Constructing elaborate fantasies, unique to only your imagination?
An endless sea of bricks and colours were for some children, the foundation to a lifelong interest in what is known as the STEM fields. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
This month Durham College played host to the annual FIRST LEGO League Provincial Robotics Championship, also known as FLL. The event is a chance for students age nine to 14 to design, build and program a robot using Lego and computer software.
The students work in teams and design their machines to solve real world water issues by navigating their robots through miniature obstacle courses where they replace pipes or dig wells depending on their project goals. The teams compete for a championship title.
Last year’s champions were The Hydrators. Their focus was on finding water solutions for horses and modernizing the way stables operate.
Sheil Patel, Andrew Batek, and Adi Chhetri are members of The Hydrators team that attended this year’s FLL at Durham College to assist competing teams with technical support and talk about their work with their FLL project.
“Hydration is the key indicator of a horse’s health,” Patel said. “We designed a post that would be able to monitor multiple horses outside, one pasture, with only one water source.”
Chhetri said dehydration is a big concern to horses as a cause for disease, “As it can lead to spasmodic colic, impaction colic, or even worse, death.”
Spasmodic colic is also known as noisy gut syndrome. Horses with the disease experience severe pain as the colic causes extreme contractions in their intestines.
Having access to clean water while at pasture helps to reduce the risk of dehydration and contraction of colic.
The Hydrators won a string competitions and awards after FLL, culminating in the Global Innovation award and a $25,000 prize.
The Hydrators said they are currently in the market for selling their technology to stables in Ontario and are hoping their success drives younger students to pursue their passions in STEM fields.
“It’s a little nostalgic, it’s very cool to see other teams that have the potential to do what we did,” Batek said. “There were many times where we encountered lots of problems, but you keep working on it, and then you’ll figure it out.”
Durham College President Don Lovisa also made an appearance at FLL to encourage the students to consider a future in STEM fields and plug the programs at the college for a possible education.
“Why is it our favourite event?” said Lovisa. “Because when I look out and I see all of our Lego athletes, I see our future scientists. Our future teachers, inventors, and young people who are going to change the world that we live in. You’re the type of students that we want.”