Natural disasters are not something that most boys ages 9 through 12 think about on a regular basis. However, five local boys have been very focused on this topic for months.
They are part of a team called Motorcycle Riding Chimpanzees, who competed in a First LEGO League competition in Rockford last December to explore deaths due to people driving their vehicles into flooding waters.
The group is looking forward to starting another First LEGO League season in August. This year’s theme is “World Class Learning Unleashed.”
First LEGO League is a robotics program for children 9 to 14, designed to get kids excited about science and technology. For this year’s competition, teams have to come up with a Nature’s Fury project and complete a mission using a LEGO NXT robot.
Last year, the boys focused on an invention to decrease deaths from vehicles in floods.
The boys invented the “Flood Eraditator” after interviewing a Sycamore firefighter, members of the Northern Illinois University Robotics Club, and DeKalb and Sycamore city officials. They decided to place sensors on the river bank near bridges and underpasses, connected to reverse 911, which allows operators to send messages to home phones warning area residents of danger when sensors detect a flood. The sensors send signals to a flashing yellow light warning people that the areas is not safe. .
The boys also experimented with writing programs to make their robot complete selected missions. The First LEGO League has a mat with 14 missions or simulations reflecting a variety of tasks before, during, and after natural disasters. Since the boys had limited experience working with this type of technology, they were helped by the NIU Robotics Club.