Bluffton Middle School iRobots team builds prototype for grocery-carrying robot

abredeson@islandpacket.comFebruary 18, 2013 

  • The iRobots at Bluffton Middle School are looking for sponsors to help with the purchase of equipment and travel expenses. Details: Angela Gadsden-Wright, 843-707-0789 or angela.wright2@beaufort.k12.sc.us.

Imagine a robot that carries your groceries from the car into your kitchen for you. Bluffton Middle School students have developed a prototype for just that.

The students are part of an engineering club called the iRobots. And they recently won first place at the Orangeburg FIRST LEGO League Qualifying Event. They will go to the state competition Feb. 23, where they will compete against about 80 other teams.

The LEGO league is a robotics program designed to get kids excited about science and technology. Every year the league has a different challenge. This year's was "Senior Solutions." Teams were asked to find a way to improve the quality of life for older people by helping them be independent, engaged and connected in their communities.

As part of the challenge, teams were asked to conduct interviews to find out what older people could use. A couple of the people the iRobots interviewed mentioned needing help getting their groceries inside.

The iRobots came up with the "Gro-Bot," or grocery robot. The 8-by-9-by-13-inch robot is able to carry two bottles of water at a time.

In addition to performing a helpful task, the robots must complete a variety of missions. Those missions include driving over a bridge and knocking down tiny bowling pins.

On top of putting together the robots and getting them to complete missions, teams also have to write papers and present skits to the judges.

The iRobots is made up of six students overseen by technology teacher Angela Gadsden-Wright. Seventh-grader Adelyn Helms is the captain.

"We work really well together," Adelyn said. "We put a lot of work into this whole thing."

Gadsden-Wright said her students were really excited when she asked them if they'd be interested in doing robotics at the beginning of the year.

Gadsden-Wright said when her team went to the regional competition, they only planned to go for the experience. They did not expect to place.

"So when we came in first place, it was a Cinderella story," she said. "We showed up at the ball, not knowing what to expect, and we came away with the glass slipper."

Gadsden-Wright said she's just there to monitor the team. The kids do all the work. And she said she has learned a lot from them this school year.

"You can hear the excitement," she said. "They're hard workers. When things don't go right, they're like, 'We've got to fix it. We need to practice again.'"

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