NEAAAT: Lego team wins 1st place in contest

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NEAAAT eighth grade students competing at the Regional First Lego League Tournament included (l-r) Front Row - Marielle Murray, Savanna Firman, Jordan Barton, Coach Collyn Gaffney, coach Joseph Hedley, team volunteer Shala Spence; Back Row - Kathryn Wilson, Katrina Elstrodt, Jude Schermerhorn, Samuel Geffert, John Davison, Nick Stoner, Daniel Nadeau, NEAAAT administrator & mentor Tonya Little, NEAAAT assistant coach Tyrone Dillard.


From staff reports

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

A team of 8th graders at NEAAAT won the 1st place championship title at the Regional Qualifying First Lego League Tournament on Nov. 18 at Broad Creek Middle School in Newport, N.C. 

The team competed against 23 teams to advance to the First Lego League state tournament at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro on Jan. 20, 2018. NEAAAT coaches Tonya Little, Collyn Gaffney, and Joseph Hedley directed the team, which was the first NEAAAT team to compete in the tournament.

The NEAAAT FLL Team #34522 includes Jude Schermerhorn, Savanna Firman, Nick Stoner, Samuel Geffert, Daniel Nadeau, Jordan Barton, Katrina Elstrodt, Kathryn Wilson, Marielle Murray and John Davison. Team alternate is Caleb Williams.

A First Lego League Tournament judge commented that he "loved hearing about their project and research" after the NEAAAT team presented a choreographed skit about their research on Project Zebra. Project Zebra refers to a secret World War II mission in Elizabeth City where Russians were trained to fly planes at the Elizabeth City Coast Guard Base in the 1940s. One plane that crashed into the Pasquotank River still lies at the river’s bottom, along with many ships.

NEAAAT students chose to do research around this event and the environmental concerns regarding the corrosion and fluids in the Pasquotank River from such events. The NEAAAT Team is building a prototype drone that can retrieve data from the river and continue to research and study the activity.

The students have been preparing for the event since September, attending weekly meetings, participating in team-building exercises, conducting research, interviewing experts in their area of research and constructing an autonomous robot.

Competing teams work with adult mentors to build a LEGO robot to compete in a specific challenge posed by a robotics program called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The robots are built of LEGO Mindstorms EV3 products including sensors, attachments and motors. Judges score teams on how their robots complete game challenges, how the team present their solution to a research project and how team members work together.

For their project, the NEAAAT team members interviewed NEAAAT Board of Directors Chairman and former Elizabeth City Mayor Joseph Peel about Project Zebra. They learned that one of the planes from the mission crashed and remains in the Pasquotank River. This sparked the teams’ curiosity about the many WWII wrecks that lie in North Carolina waterways.

The team’s proposed research topic was to build remote operating vehicles, that would enable monitoring of environmental conditions in the waters where these wrecks lie, to make sure that corrosion does not lead to possible hazardous leaks of fuel and chemicals over time affecting the quality of the water that is used for many human purposes.

NEAAAT is partnering with the North Carolina State University Science House Center for Marine Science and Technology  to build their remote operating vehicle. The team also interviewed Samuel Benevides, aerospace materials engineer with the United Stated Coast Guard and Pat Dwyer retired USCG pilot. Dwyer spoke with the NEAAAT students about salvage and recovery missions. NEAAAT instructor Elton Stone, a retired Navy air warfare specialist is helping the team with a corrosion experiment.

“The accomplishment of NEAAAT’s team has been possible through a collaborative effort of STEM stakeholders,” states a NEAAAT news release. Funding for the team for FLL national and regional registrations, team challenge kit and team competition materials has come primarily from the Elizabeth City State University Department of Technology chaired by Kuldeep Rawat. The ECSU Department of Technology’s funding from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, Golden LEAF Foundation, and NASA have contributed to supporting NEAAAT FLL Team #34522.