In a literal sense, Hillsville Elementary’s Lego League team, the “Toileteers,” went into the State tourney at James Madison University “flushed” with success. The squad was among four local teams in the 54 teams in Division 1 of the Virginia-DC FLL State Tournament. (One hundred and eight teams competited in the event.)
“Filter Freaks” Coach Mark Nottingham reports the following:
•The Lego Eagles (GVES- Division 1) and the Toileteers (HES- Division 1) both received Judges Award trophies. Out of about 20 trophies earned in robot design, team project, core values and robot performance, two trophies came home to Carroll County!
•Good Hydrations (CCMS- Division 1), proudly ranked 24th out of 68 division 1 teams in robot performance with consistent runs all day long. They also received a call back in Core Values ranking them within the top 12 of their division in that category.
•The Filter Freaks (CCMS- Division 2) ranked in the top 10 at ninth place out of 40 tough teams competing in Division 2.
Nottingham felt these teams represented Carroll County extremely well, holding their own against the best the state of Virginia and Washington D.C. had to offer.
“Thank you for your support of all the Carroll County robotics teams. Your investment in the future engineers, innovators, and leaders will pay great dividends,” Nottingham wrote to the School district’s Central Office.
Carroll County sent four teams (the “Toileteers,” “Good Hydrations,” “Filter Freaks,” and the “Lego Eagles”) which meant four Cavalier teams out of the County’s eight teams qualified in the third year of the program in the School Division. (This is the second year for Division I teams composed of students in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. If participants are 13-years old by January 1, then a team has to move up to Division II.)
According to Lucy Nottingham, the Toileteers captured the first place championship award in Division 1 to advance (from the Abingdon tourney). Good Hydrations was second and won first for Robot performance points. The Filter Freaks were first in Division 1 at Abingdon with the highest robot run score of 140 points and were first in robot performance, and the Lego Eagles finished second at the Lego tourney in Christiansburg (Carroll’s “Hydro Tigers” won a research award at a Martinsville competition and the Water Rangers won core value honors.)
This year’s problem involves hydro-dynamics, namely, find a problem within the “human water cycle” and come up with a solution (Lego League teams this year ironically, are not allowed to have real water in the demonstrations). The Toileteers solution was to design a system to collect grey water from sinks in toilets for use in the school. The team was adamant it would not be used in the kitchens (State regulations on water containing food wastes). They tied this to a rainwater collection system on the school’s roof and mixed the two.
The Toileteers said they figured it would save the school 30,000 gallons of water or $600 a month. Research at first was difficult because the bulk of grey water information is geared to small home use. With the square footage of HES, they calculated they could collect 160,000 gallons in one month with a boost from rain which typically drains off, sometimes causing erosion. Team member Brianna Bowden said they looked up laws in Virginia that allow mixing of grey water and rainwater for specific uses to determine if the project would even be allowed.
Lucy Nottingham and Mike Hobbs serve as coaches for the Toileteers. The League’s teams research a real-world problem and are challenged to develop a solution. They also must design, build, and program a robot using LEGO technology, then compete on a table-top playing field with their creations.
The goal of the effort is to develop critical thinking and team-building skills, basic Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) applications, and creative presentation skills of participants while practicing the Program’s signature Core Values. The Lego Eagles’ problem was treating agricultural runoff. The team built a model farm demonstrating how to take care of “sludge” from cows.
“The core values are like what you do as a team. Working together, gracious professionalism and like, we shared a lot of pictures when we had cooperation, like when we were just working together,” said Toileteers team member Rebekkah Hancock.
According to Nottingham and Hobbs, Carroll’s Filter Freaks’ solution promotes awareness of filters typically made in Indonesia where mud and rice chaff are mixed. When the mixture is fired, all the chaff burns away leaving microscopic holes and becomes a water filter made from items usually discarded. School kids dump water into the top of the filter and they have it to drink throughout the day and can take water home for their families. (They were promoting awareness so families could have clean drinking water, which is a technology to be considered for future Hurricane victims.)
The Toileteers solved not using water in the display by making videos of the process and the problem and their answer. Nottingham said they didn’t know if this would be a make or break for them but it paid off. The display includes QR codes which direct judges to instructional videos.
The model’s pump was built by the team themselves and they programmed the EV3 control unit (They also shared their solution with PSA Executive Director Jessica Montgomery and Superintendent Dr. Shirley Perry). Rachelle Rasco of CCHS helped them make grey water and test it for its PH. The team model of the school was built with Legos. Members appeared very pleased with a tiny toilet and sink they made with a 3D printer (complete with holes for drainage to the scaled down system using tubes and recycled bottles.)
“Because a lot of other teams were planning on using water, we made videos to show judges how our device worked,” said Hobbs. Nottingham said the team also had to give out “swag” (Theirs included a Hershey chocolate kiss with a stick in it. A QR code was attached to the stick leading them to videos of how the project worked).
The Toileteers peaked late in the competition to advance to State. The team got to table at the qualifying competition and hadn’t downloaded a critical program they were supposed to followed by running some wrong programs on the table. Their second run resulted in 15 points with them scoring 65 points on the third run.
“Right at lunch Laura and Ella absolutely zeroed in on our programs and we got some points back. We were working on it most of the day. It was like we did it by pure force of will,” said Hobbs. He jokingly says they had learned a lot of things about the team, mainly not to underestimate the re-energizing effects of dancing (and sugar).
The Toileteers have two experienced players. The roster lists four fifth graders and seven fourth graders, six girls and four boys (they can’t start in Lego league until fourth grade).
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.