Burns students solve world's problems


December 6, 2018

ZACH SPADT/Pine Bluffs Post

Philip Horton works on a robot Tuesday at Burns High School as a part of the LEGO FIRST Robotics program.

nts were recognized last weekend for their work planning space exploration.

And they did it in the most unlikely of ways - LEGO Robots.

FIRST LEGO League challenges students in the fourth through eighth grades to research real-world problems and develop a solution.

As a part of that process, they must design, build and program a robot using Lego software and then compete on a table-top playing field, according to the organization's website.

This year's topic was "Into Orbit."

The Burns students are divided into two groups based on age, said program advisor Kathleen Horton.

Both groups were tasked with researching the effects of spending one year in space.

Older students tackled doing laundry while in space. They looked at reducing water consumption and how to recycle water.

The younger students were tasked with solving the mental health effects of a year in space.

Their solution? Come up with a way to bring comfort foods into space.

But, Horton said, students' favorite part of the activity is creating and programming robots that are tasked with replicating certain activities.

One was a mock moon rover that students had to program to make it over moon craters. Another tasked students with launching an astronaut off the moon.

They are given three chances to achieve each task.

Of the 55 schools at the statewide competition this year, Burns placed second for their work programming the robots.

Horton said the competition gives students with all sorts of strengths a chance to shine.

The programming whizzes can program the robots' bricks, or brains. Mechanically inclined students build them.

It's a long process that begins in August - when students receive their challenges - and culminates in the winter when they travel to competition.

For program participant Brandon Winslow, robotics is about honing an unique skill.

"Nobody else does this," he said. "It's really minimalistic.

"It's like, 'I can do this and you can't."

When asked, nearly every student in the program said he or she would consider a career in robotics or engineering.

That's not the only benefit they get from it, said Horton.

The bonds the students FORGE can last a lifetime. It also teaches them problem skills and the life lessons that come with growing up and being a teenager.

"I was planning on talking to (Horton) and our teammates about doing something over the summer that would benefit our world, but doing it with a LEGO robot," participant Aubrey Burns said. "Like solving a problem that we have in our schools or world -and take our idea and throw at them."


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