Five ambitious students at Penn's Grove School, in Oxford, have embarked on a global challenge to discover the links between science, people, resources and communities through FIRST (For Inspiration Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League (FLL)-and will be competing in a qualifying event Saturday, December 13 in Wilmington, Del.With the help of head coach Guy Tomassian, and co-coach Marissa Tomassian, a junior at Oxford Area High School (OAHS), the team, including Karry Nusbaum, Kim Coterwas, Tyler Milligan, Alex Coleman and Mark Tomassian-known as the Techno Moes-have researched the connections between CO2 emissions and climate changes, and its adverse effect on the environment for their project in the FLL.
FLL is a program, participated in worldwide, that was created to get kids, ages 9 to 14, excited about science and technology-using theme-based challenges to engage kids in research, problem solving, engineering and team-building.
Every year, FLL works with experts in the field to create a challenge that relates to a significant real-world issue-this year's challenge relates directly to the environment. Each challenge is comprised of two parts, The Project and The Robot Game.
To complete the challenge, each team has 10 weeks to build an autonomous robot that will-in two minutes and 30 seconds-complete pre-designed missions; analyze, research and invent a solution for the given assignment-Climate Connections; and create a clever presentation about their team's solution to perform in front of a panel of judges.
"This year's project is climate connections, so our team researched several ideas-some in use and some in the developmental stages-about how to limit CO2 emissions in our community and environment," said co-coach Tomassian.
According to Tomassian, the team's research has shown that the CO2 levels are increasing in the community, leaving a larger footprint in the environment.
"In the past five years, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware have emitted 277.00, 77.00 and 17.00 metric tons of CO2 a year [respectively] into our environment, which are all increases from previous years," said Tomassian.
Given the identification of a climatic problem for the research project-the team had to next perform thorough research and then devise a solution for this environmental issue.
"The two concepts researched for controlling CO2 emissions were carbon sequestration and hydrogen from coal production," said Tomassian. "In the sequestration method, existing coal burning electric power plants are retrofitted with new materials-such as carbon fiber molecular sieves or polymeric membranes-which capture the CO2 before leaving the smokestacks."
"In the hydrogen from coal method, hydrogen is produced from coal. Coal gasification works by first reacting coal with oxygen and steam under high pressure and temperature to form a combination of carbon monoxide and hydrogen," explained Tomassian. "The gasses are cleaned of impurities and concentrated hydrogen is harvested to be used in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and power plants with near-zero greenhouse emissions."
Although this explanation of the Techno Moes' project will sound a bit foreign to many readers, the information and theory are proven with research and exhibited through demonstration in the robot game portion.
By working on this project, students will gain an insight to global environmental problems, and will encounter challenges similar to those faced by scientists and engineers as they identify a problem and develop an innovative solution. It is hoped, by participants and leaders at FLL, that the exposure to these fields of science and related professions will open kids' eyes to future career choices in which they can make a positive difference to society-and they will have fun along the way.
The FLL events are said to be much like sporting events in that there are referees to monitor and score the robot game, judges to review team presentations, awards and trophies are distributed and there is music and tons of excitement from a cheering crowd of spectators.
The Techno Moes will be participating in an event this Saturday, December 13 at the Conrad School of Science in Wilmington, Del., with the hopes of qualifying for the main event which will take place on January 31, 2009 at the Bob Carpenter Center-on the University of Delaware campus.
These students have dedicated a lot of time to this project-meeting four hours a week on Monday and Thursday evenings since early September. So, come out and show support for these intellectual athletes exercising their brain rather than brawn.