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Waltham Students Win LEGO Award

Waltham students recently won an award for their work with science concepts and LEGOs.

These Waltham students are doing more than playing with LEGOS -- they are winning with LEGOS. 

The Waltham LolliBots FIRST Lego team won the presentation award at the Robonautica competition at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester on Dec. 15 – a culmination of their hours of learning to build robots made of LEGOS all while learning life skills.

While they enjoyed their prize, Lollibots is about more than competition and winning. The team, comprised of six Waltham students mostly in 6th and 7th grade, built robots from LEGOS as part of the FIRST FLL program founded by famed inventor Dean Kamen. The program has contestants build the robots and other projects to solve scientific problems and challenges.

The Waltham team scored 303 points at the Worcester contest, which ranks them 34 out of 83 Massachusetts teams, according to team coach Donna Megquier. The team was considered for four other awards, Megquier said. 

Along with the award, the all-girls team certainly learned many lessons as they worked to build and tweak their robot. The girls said they enjoy meeting new friends, travelling to competitions, programming the robot and solving scientific problems, all while having fun. 

Gina Peterson, a FIRST FLL team member, said the program has inspired her to become a video game designer. 

“It’s really cool working with robotics,” Peterson said during a recent practice session at the First Parish in Waltham.

The students learn much more than socialization, said Megquier, including angles, computer programming, electrical engineering and more.

BUILDING ROBOTS

The team spent many hours creating their robot which performs tasks on a game board. The robot, which the students programmed using a computer, goes to pre-arranged points to perform tasks, such as dropping a small ball onto the board to knock over miniature bowling pins. Each task earns a certain amount of points toward winning competitions.The students use trial and error, along with their lessons to tweak the robot to perform the missions correctly, Megquier said.

As part of their project, the team also improved upon an existing alert button for senior citizens to press when they need assistance. The medical alert ubtton is designed to look like a piece of jewelry that seniors would be more likely to wear rather than a less-attracive medical device. Seniors can use the device to talk to medical staff and inform them of their location. 

With the Worcester competition behind them, the team plans to exhibit its skills on New Years Eve, according to Megqueir. The team will present its skills during the Boston GreenFest from 1 p.m. – 6 p.m. at the Hynes Convention Center, according to Megquier.

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