Young STEM Students Win Innovation Awards At Global LEGO Finals

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Two teams of students that were successful at the IET's FIRST LEGO League (FLL) UK and Ireland Final have gone on to win global innovation awards for their projects. 
FLL is a global science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) challenge aimed at 9-16 year olds, which tasks teams of school children to solve real world problems with the help of a robot. This year’s challenge required young people to come up with an innovative way to deal with the growing problem of waste.

The West Linton Wasps, a team of ten Scottish students aged 11 to 12 who, after finding that 60 per cent of vegetables were being wasted at school, introduced an incentive scheme where children earned tokens and prizes for their class for eating vegetables. Their school has seen a 47 per cent reduction in wasted vegetables and there are plans to extend this scheme to other local schools.
The Rubbish Runners, a home educated team of four students from across London, came up with a way to reduce cigarette litter outside train stations by creating a bin that incentivises people to dispose of cigarettes correctly rather than on the floor by entering them into a lottery for free travel.

Both teams share their thoughts on the FLL experience!

The West Linton Wasps FLL team arose out of the school’s Young Engineers club, which meets on a Friday afternoon as a parent-led activity. We entered FLL after an email suggestion from the Head Teacher, Jill Doyle, asking if this was the sort of thing the club would be interested in doing. Two of the parent helpers knew a little bit about Lego robotics and the competition looked simply brilliant, so we jumped at the chance!
In the robot game, the breakthrough for the team came a couple of weeks before Christmas, when we moved the table out of the school so they could work on it over the holidays. After a couple of weeks of working on it for 7 hours a day the team found that they were able to score 601 points! They took this to their heat at Dundee: the robot kept all of us guessing and finally got to 601 points in the very final round! For the UK and Ireland final at Loughborough, they added further missions (2nd methane, demolition, valuables) taking the tally up to 762 points. Finally, for the world festival, they added lifting the truck up to keep the yellow bin in place and finally, after much effort, managed to push the chicken into the small circle for a total score of 847 - if everything went to plan! On the day, the robot managed a best score of 807 (one dropped methane) which placed the Wasps 23rd in the World - not bad for a "rookie" team!
The team had lots of interesting ideas for the project, but settled on the problem of vegetable waste following a suggestion by Owen. His theory was that everyone hates Brussel sprouts, so when they are served, they mostly end up in the bin. Why not replace them with something more popular? After further discussions, the team decided to focus on all vegetable waste in the school. They surveyed all the children to find out what percentage of children liked the various vegetables on offer, and diligently weighed the wasted veg to see how much was going in the bin. This turned out to be 60%! They then created an incentive scheme called "The Lunchtime Experience" - the kids eating school lunches were given tokens for their class for eating veg and then the whole class got a prize for collecting enough tokens. This got the veg wasted down to only 13% - a massive improvement. The team think the key to this success is that "The Lunchtime Experience" is a pupil-led activity. The judges at the world festival were really impressed by this scheme and gave the Wasps an innovation award for their solution to a real world problem.
John Levine, team coach, West Linton Wasps
We arrived in Tenerife for the FLL Open European Championship not quite knowing how we had ended up there. We never expected to come this far and we arrived thoroughly looking forward to the days to come.
On the first day, after we had set up our prototype and stand, we walked around, chatting and making friends with other teams. We had already met one of the teams, from the Netherlands, on our flight, and we quickly made friends with others. We watched the opening ceremony, which was good, but not as good as the one at the FLL UK and Ireland Final!
The next day was the opening ceremony and robot practice runs. Our practice runs didn’t go too well, but they weren’t too bad. The next day was the most exciting: the judging sessions and robot runs. We thought the judging sessions went quite well, and the robot runs were much better than the practice. The day ended, and we felt very proud of ourselves.
Finally came the award ceremony: this was maybe even scarier than the day before! After we had paraded in, carrying the UK flag, we sat down and watched. We were incredibly pleased when they announced us as the winners of one of the Innovative Solution awards! We were extremely proud.
Overall our FLL experience has been extraordinary, an experience in a life time, that none of us will ever forget!
Elye Cuthbertson, 11, team member, Rubbish Runners

Posted by Rebecca Gillick on May 20, 2016 10:09 AM Europe/London

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