Robo Champs

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In a triumph of man over machines—or man triumphantly harnessing a machine’s potential –a team of seven 9th graders at Boys Town Jerusalem clinched First Place in “Robot Strategy and Innovation” at the regional competition of the FLL (First Lego League) Israel. Yet, even as they watched their prizewinning robot perform tasks with speed and precision, the team was keenly aware of its humble beginnings.

When the Boys Town Robotics Team first began meeting, they started with nothing more than a gigantic box of thousands of small Lego components. Throughout the coming months, they systematically learned the basics of constructing an autonomous robot to meet the specifications of the international FLL. 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,” explained instructor Roi David. “All projects are based upon this year’s contest theme, ‘Keeping Food Safe.’ For the BTJ students, our first stop was one of our favorite places, the school’s kitchen.”

Amiel Haimov, 14, headed the project development. “I look at it as creating a hi-tech ‘start-up,’” Amiel mused. “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.” Thus, 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 (First Lego League) Israel competition. At Boys Town, robotics studies are an integral element, from seventh grade through the school’s two-year College of Applied Engineering.

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