HomeEducationWestford students tackle energy issues one LEGO brick at a time

Westford students tackle energy issues one LEGO brick at a time


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WESTFORD — A group of students aim to solve real-world issues through their shared love of LEGO and invention.

The Gummy Bears are a group of seventh and eighth-grade students from Westford learning to build and program their own LEGO robots.

“It can teach us a lot of different skills that test our innovative thinking. It teaches us more about STEM,” seventh-grade team member Mia Li told WestfordCAT. “It’s because it’s STEM and we’re interested and we wanted to try this. We all liked to build LEGO.”

Innovation and invention

They have competed in competitions with each other since 2018, completing challenges and service projects in FIRST Lego League.

FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is a non-profit dedicated to inspiring young people to be science and technology innovators through leadership and community engagement.

Students in their league, between the ages of 9 and 14, were tasked with solving a problem in the field of energy generation. The Gummy Bears built a self-sustaining generator that relies on water and gravity.

Mia Li (left) and the team’s vertical generator. The generator can power a number of small light bulbs when used. (Photo/Ben Domaingue)

“There’s a potential to help out the community and encourage kids to go into STEM,” the team told WestfordCAT. “We’re very proud of the vertical idea. No one else has done that, so we could get a patent. We are planning on sharing it so a lot more people can work on it.”

The team interviewed scientists from Hong Kong, researched a number of academic papers and shared the idea with Mack Technologies in Westford and Shell TechWorks, a research subsidiary of Shell Global.

The team was invited to present to a number of industry professionals at Shell TechWorks to promote their project and its potential use around the world.

“We see potential in using it in unused spaces or rural areas to generate electricity,” eighth team member Arjun Aravind told WestfordCAT.

Competition and collaboration

Solving a real-world issue is only one of the challenges students face when participating in FIRST Lego League. Students must compete and collaborate to complete a number of “missions” using an autonomous LEGO robot students design and program.

“We have to connect all of the motors and sensors to a certain brick which only has four inputs for sensors. That limits our design,” Mia said.

Allison Luo (left) Mia Li and Isabella Gleyzer change attachments during their demonstration. (Photo/Ben Domaingue)

Her teammate, eighth-grader Leo Huang, continued, “every team goes through a certain strategy, every team works to combine and complete the missions [as fast as possible].”

Though teams compete against one another, the league includes a number of collaborative missions for them to complete with other teams.

“They tried to be cooperative, it gives them a reason to interact with one another,” Vitaly Gleyzer, one of the team’s coaches, told WestfordCAT. “It’s not supposed to be a competition at the end of the day.”

Team members noted that during a past competition, The Gummy Bears worked with a team from Morrocco. Both teams worked to overcome a language barrier on top of their missions.

“It can be hard to communicate with others with a language barrier,” seventh-grade team member Isabella Gleyzer told WestfordCAT.

Mia continued, “their solutions were simple yet robust. I was amazed at how they created simple yet efficient attachments [for their robot].”

Community outreach

Head coach Xun Zhang believes that students and parents may be “intimidated” by the league, but hopes the team can change that.

The team echoed this sentiment and hopes to make the league more accessible for future students.

“There’s a potential to help out the community and encourage kids to go into STEM,” Leo said.

The team plans on hosting a number of events this summer, along with the Stormgears, Westford’s high school robotics team. Their workshops will include topics on basic programming, basic design, strategy and navigation techniques. Students can register for workshops on May 13.

The team also mentors junior and rookie teams. Requests can be sent to fllgummybears@gmail.com. 

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Ben Domaingue
Ben Domainguehttps://www.clippings.me/bendomaingue
Ben Domaingue has previously worked at newspapers in New Hampshire and is the Managing Editor covering Westford. He’s passionate about community journalism, photography and hiking. Email him at bdomaingue@westfordcat.org.

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