Glen Ames Public School’s
robotics team has qualified for an international competition in California after finishing second at the FIRST Lego League (FLL) Ontario East Provincial Championship
, recently held in Oshawa. The squad is the only Toronto District School Board (TDSB) elementary team to move on to international play this year.
The Toronto Beach-area school is no stranger to success. Since the school first fielded a team in 2006, it has qualified for a remarkable seven provincial competitions and will now appear in its third international event. This year’s ten-member team of grade 7 and 8 students with three trainees is called the Pawsitive Proportionists
. It qualified for the provincials by virtue of its strong performance at a TDSB regional event.
“The whole school is so proud of this accomplishment,” said Principal Kristina Wessenger-Macdonald. “To represent the Beach community, the city of Toronto, and our country on the international stage is an enormous honour. And the opportunity to bring back knowledge and valuable experiences will benefit many other students.”
Each year, FLL teams design, build, program, and test robots that complete tasks or "missions" based on a pre-determined theme that develops innovative solutions to a real-world problem. Then teams present their solutions at competitions, and demonstrate their robots for panels of judges. This year’s theme is “Animal Allies,” focussing on helping human-animal interactions.
The Glen Ames team developed a fully-functional automatic dog feeder, called Petportion, that weighs the pet and provides an accurate portion of food at feeding time. Petportion includes an infrared sensor that recognizes a beacon device on a dog's collar to open a door that allows the pet in. This ingenious feature assures that other animals cannot get into the device to eat the food, allowing for a customized and safe experience for all pets in a household. The Petportion also has an LED light system that gives the owner feedback on whether the dog is underweight, overweight or the ideal weight.
“All together there are well over 100 mathematical calculations that take place within this robot, four sensors, three motors and many variables,” said teacher Luke Martin who is one of three coaches for the team, along with Olivia Terenzio and Barb Buckley. "FLL projects such as this one give students motivation to learn about programming, variables, and engineering strategies," Martin added.
To test their device to be sure they were on the right track, the team enlisted the help of an honorary member of the Pawsitive Proportionists: Martin's Dachshund, Willow. “She wants to come with me to work every day now," exclaimed the teacher.
Coaches were particularly impressed with students’ commitment to the project. “Their passion and desire to keep improving their robot and project are off the charts,” said Martin. “We tried to give them a break after the last tournament and they showed up most days to keep working anyway," he noted. Team members put in more than 200 hours of work since the start of their season in September.
And the team just keeps on working to improve its robot for the California event later this May. "Robotics is a way of life not just a hobby,” said team captain Robbie C. “It really boosts my self-esteem and it feels like I'm part of something bigger than myself.”
Builder/Operator Brenden G agreed, adding that their success has brought the team closer together. “It's our second family," he said.