Over this past summer, a group of students from Dublin represented Ireland at the First Lego League competition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. They returned home with the Breakthrough Award in recognition of their achievements.
The team of students was made up of Claire, Karina, Cara and Monica, who met each other through the Girl Guides. The team started four years ago with Cara and Monica, who were invited by Learnit at DCU to become the Irish Girl Guides’ first ever LEGO robotics team. Two years later Claire and Karina both joined.
The team of girls have all previously passed ICDL modules, which helped broaden their horizons, spark an interest in technology and learn how to stay safe online.
Robotics can be for anyone
Robotics has given the students a chance to look at things differently. Robotics nurtures the skills to gain an insight into how things work and the process behind them.
Claire, one of the competing students, said: “I think robotics can be for anyone. It’s so interesting and there are so many different aspects to it. I personally enjoy the coding aspect but you might be a builder/engineer or to plan out the routes for the robot on the mat.
“I’ve learned a lot of different skills, from coding using SPIKE™ Prime to working as a team throughout the competition. One of the other skills that I learned was how to build and create 3D models for our project presentation and how to build a working prototype to show the judges at the competition.”
Early stages of the competition
For the first stages of the competition, the students went against schools across Ireland at DCU. They managed to come first in this nationwide competition, an achievement in itself. A few months later, they were invited to attend the First LEGO League Robotics Competition against teams from around the world.
Claire said: “We felt honoured to be invited to the competition in Rio de Janeiro and felt excited to go and see the different teams that also love LEGO robotics!”
The skills needed to compete in Rio
For the big trip to Rio, having a grounding in digital skills through ICDL came in very handy. Claire said: “For our project we had to get statistics on information we received and we were able to use the Spreadsheets module and broader skills I learned from ICDL to create an organised sheet with all of our information present. I also did the Teamwork and Remote Work modules and we were able to work as a team better online on zoom because of these skills.
“ICDL Insights also got me thinking about how all these topics relate to the internet world.”
Aside from the competition, the team ensures they keep on top of their schoolwork with the skills they learned doing their ICDL. Claire said: “It comes in handy when I use Documents, which is daily and I use Presentation for projects and now with the skills I learned from ICDL I am able to use them both properly and to their full extent.”
The contest in Brazil
After a long 14 flight from Dublin to Rio, the students made the most of their downtime in Brazil by exploring what the country has to offer: Christ the Redeemer, The Selaron Steps and The Sugarloaf Mountain. They also had lunch with the the Irish Consul General, Owen Bennis and they were brought for a walk around Copacabana beach afterwards.
After settling in it was time for the competition. Claire said:
“I enjoyed watching the robot games and meeting new people from around the world the most. Everyone there was all so nice and all the different types of robots were amazing to watch fly across the map to complete different missions.
“I enjoyed thinking of real world problems and creative and innovative ways to solve them: Each year for the Innovation project, using the theme, each team thinks of a real-world problem and a solution to solve it.
“The problem we identified is that truck drivers sit for very long periods of time, while driving or in traffic and aren’t getting anywhere near enough exercise so we developed a new piece of technology called Pedal. Pedal is a fixed piece of technology that fits into the foot well of the driver’s seat to increase exercise use. It can be pulled up using your foot and flattened down when the driver is driving. We also wanted to think of a creative way of presenting our ideas so did a shark tank presentation which the judges really enjoyed. I even built a working prototype and animated a 3D model using SketchUp.
“It felt incredible to win an award from an international competition. We honestly didn’t think we would win anything but to our surprise and amaze we won the Breakthrough award.”