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Boys 2 robots
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Boys 2 robots

With regards to “Robot event shows facts behind science fiction” (May 31), your readers may be interested to know that, in a triumph of man over machines — or man triumphantly harnessing a machine’s potential — a team of seven ninth-graders at Boys Town Jerusalem clinched first place in “Robot Strategy and Innovation” at the recent regional competition of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Scienceand Technology) Lego League. Yet, even as they watched their smart, savvy prizewinning robot perform tasks with speed and precision, the team members were keenly aware of its humble beginnings.

When the Boys Town Robotics Team first began meeting in after-school sessions, they started with nothing more than a gigantic box of thousands of small Lego components. In the ensuing months, they systematically learned the basics of constructing an autonomous robot to meet the specifications of the  international FLL. As they breathed life into the Lego robot, they developed their knowledge, skills, ingenuity, and teamwork. The BTJ robot was primed to spar against 25 robots from other competingschools. But building a better robot was only one part of the contest.

“The rules require each team to tackle an actual problem that today’s scientists and engineers are trying to solve, and develop an innovative solution,” said instructor Roi David. “All projects are based upon this year’s contest theme, ‘Keeping Food Safe.’ For the Boys Town students, our first stop was one of our favorite places, the school’s industrial size kitchen.”

Amiel Haimov, 14, was the team member assigned to head the project development. “I look at it as creating a hi-tech ‘start-up,’” Amiel said. “After touring the kitchen — and realizing that we all love scrambled eggs — we focused on how to keep eggs from becoming contaminated. And, in Jewish law, we’re prohibited from eating eggs with blood spots, which are not kosher.” After the team boned up on the different types of eggs and how to prevent bacteria from attacking them, they focused on creating a robot to automatically detect blood spots in eggs.

The device they created and presented at the FLL Israel competition involved a conveyor belt to which egg cartons were attached. A special camera/scanner positioned above used infrared color sensors to automatically inspect the eggs as they moved along the belt. When blood was detected, the system triggered an audio alarm to shout, “Stop! Red!”

This year marked Boys Town’s third entry to the FLL. At Boys Town, robotics studies are an integral element, from seventh grade through the school’s two-year College of Applied Engineering.

Josh Weston
Chair
Boys Town Jerusalem Foundation of America

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