Three words have been on the radar of quite a few students in Sharon since August: Senior Solution’s Challenge.
Those three words are what the Tiger Techs, a FIRST Lego League Robotics Team, have been focused on solving until recently when they competed with teams from across western Pennsylvania on this year’s challenge. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”
The Tiger Techs are comprised of 18 students from Sharon’s elementary schools and middle school. The Tiger Techs are actually split into two teams, with one focused on middle school students and the other with elementary school students. Both teams have competed this year, with the middle school team competing at several regionals and the grand championship tournament in Pittsburgh.
The Senior Solution’s Challenge focused on several components including a research presentation, robotic missions, programming, robotic hardware design, and teamwork. Part of the challenge required students to research a problem faced by seniors and to involve the community with that research through collecting information and sharing what they have learned.
As a result of hearing from a local pharmacist and a senior, the Tiger Techs developed the MedBuddy, an automatic pill dispenser. The MedBuddy prototype has an automated turn table dispenser for medication, a water dispenser, a 3.5-inch screen, and a necklace to wear to notify a senior when to take medication. The team developed this due to mix-ups that happen to seniors taking multiple medications.
The robotics portion of the challenge focused on 14 missions on a table that are built out of Lego’s. All the mission models are tied to the themed challenge, Senior Solutions. The missions ranged from placing quilts next to each other to recovering a pet dog from a mission model. In addition to solving the missions on the table, the Tiger Techs had to engineer and design a robot that would complete the missions autonomously using Lego Mindstorm technology.
Since beginning in August, both teams competed at the Penn State Behrend Tournament in Erie and respectively placed sixth and eighth with their robotic performance and second place for the mechanical/hardware design of their robot.
The middle school team then went on to compete at regional tournaments held at Shady Side Academy and the Sarah Heinz House in Pittsburgh where they qualified to attend the Western Pennsylvania Grand Championship Tournament. Regionally, the middle school team placed second with their robot performance, second place with their research presentation, and second with their mechanical/hardware design of their robot.
The Western Final tournament was held at the National Robotics and Engineering Center of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. There the Tiger Techs placed seventh out of 46 teams and were honorable mention with the mechanical/hardware design of their robot.
The team is under the direction of Dave Tomko and Ali Ismail. Tomko is the elementary gifted support teacher for the district, and Ismail is a current senior at Penn State Behrend who is majoring in computer engineering. Ismail was also a graduate of the 2009 class at Sharon Middle/High School.
The teams are sponsored by a grant from Time Warner Cable.