LEGO teams prepare for qualifier

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Spruce Mountain Middle School has five teams that will compete at the Western Maine FIRST LEGO League Qualifier in Jay on November 17. Lily Bailey at left and Ava Coates are members of The Astronutz. Their research project involves social problems in space. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser) 

JAY — Five Spruce Mountain Middle School teams are gearing up for the Western Maine FIRST LEGO League Qualifier on Saturday, Nov. 17.

The qualifier is hosted by the Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team 3930 and will be held at Spruce Mountain High School. Community members are welcome to attend the robotic game challenge matches in the afternoon.

Each year, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League issues a challenge with three parts: robot games, a project and core values. The challenge is based on a real world scientific topic. This year’s challenge is Into Orbit.

Teams research the topic. They program an autonomous robot to score points by completing game missions on the table top playing field. They choose one problem associated with the main topic, develop a solution to it and give an oral presentation on their solution.

From left, Gavin Hutton and Myles Labonte are part of team SMASA (Spruce Mountain Aeronautics and Space Administration). This team is working on turning solid bio wastes into fuel. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser) 

Gracious professionalism and coopertition (cooperative competition) are key components of the program. Teams must demonstrate FLL core values; discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and having fun.

SMMS FLL advisor Rob Taylor said, “Into Orbit is a real challenge for the kids. Solving problems faced in space, everything is hypothetical. They like learning about space and the problems that come with space life.”

Students Hunter Bibeau, Ethan Egdall and Elijah Roix make up the team Space Invaders. Ethan said they are using electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Astronauts would use the oxygen to breathe and the hydrogen would be used for fuel to power rockets.

“We’re studying how to get oxygen to astronauts in outer space, using electricity to split water molecules. We’re looking for a faster, more efficient way to do it,” Ethan said.

The SMMS FLL team To Infinity and Beyond is working on using aquaponics to grow food on Mars. Pictured from left are Cecilia Pike, Mary Lovewell and Adria McHugh with the vegetables they have been growing. They will compete at the Western Maine FLL Qualifier on November 17 in Jay. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

Hunter said their model could be used in an astronaut’s space suit.

Members of the Astronutz team are Lily Bailey, Zack Donald, Brian Daigle, Abraham Geissinger, Ava Coates, Owen Schwab, Connor Blanche and Dan Wilson. They are studying social problems astronauts face.

“Astronauts are crammed into small spaces. What do they do if they get annoyed with each other?” she said.

Lily said they have created personalized virtual reality devices.

“We’ve made a questionnaire to see what type of world they’d like to have in space. Specialized 3-Dimensional goggles show a party or beach scene,” she said. “Astronauts will benefit by giving them a place to go when they are annoyed with crew members.”

Ava said the goggles can make astronauts feel like they’re in a bigger space. Different parts of the scene can be viewed. The viewer can bring the scene closer or pan out.

SMASA (Spruce Mountain Aeronautics and Space Administration) members are Casey Gould, Myles Labonte, Gavin Hutton, Nathaniel Lovewell and Keegan Parker.

Space Invaders team members Ethan Egdall, Hunter Bibeau and Elijah Roix are seen with the electrolosys machine they are working on for Into Orbit, the 2018 FLL Challenge. Five SMMS teams will compete at the Western Maine FLL Qualifier on November 17 in Jay. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

“Their project is great for middle school students! It involves poop and fire,” Taylor said.

Miles said space programs currently launch bio-waste solids, such as feces and food, into space. His team is turning them into a resource which is also more efficient.

“Waste is put into an air tight container and heated to the point where gases turn to liquid. They are very flammable,” Myles said.

Gavin said the liquids can be used to power equipment in the space center.

“Making fuel from wastes is less harmful for the environment and less expensive,” Myles said.

Members of To Infinity and Beyond are Tateum Leclerc, Aaylah Herrera, Cecilia Pike, Adria McHugh, Aiden Campbell, Mary Lovewell and Eugene Atwood. Their project will send frozen fish eggs into space.

Adria said once the fish hatch, aquaponics will be used to grow leafy vegetables for astronauts on Mars.

Mary said Mars has the most water on it.

Cecilia said icicles found in the craters on Mars can be used to grow the fish.

“The fishes’ food source is on a timer. Once they eat, waste in the water is filtered out and goes into the vegetable trays. Pellets and rock wool are used since soil is too dense for space,” she said.

Space Invaders team members Ethan Egdall, Hunter Bibeau and Elijah Roix are seen with the electrolosys machine they are working on for Into Orbit, the 2018 FLL Challenge. Five SMMS teams will compete at the Western Maine FLL Qualifier on November 17 in Jay. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

Performing surgery in space is the project of The Neptune Knights. Members are Jaziah Lavoie, Alex Grimaldi, Jonathan Groomes, Janessa Longley, Larrie Minoty and Connor Roy.

Connor said his team created a box with two arm holes.

“In space, blood would go everywhere. The box keeps it contained, making it easier to operate in space,” he said.

Mentors helping the teams are Dan Lemieux, Ann Schwab, Duane Fournier, Jeff Bailey, Ben Geissinger, and Joel Pike.

“This challenge is really interesting. It’s really following space exploration,” Pike said.

More than two dozen teams will be competing at Spruce Mountain. Each hopes to score well and be invited to participate in the state competition that will be held at the Augusta Civic Center on December 8.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net