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OLPS, Chalmette, snags ‘Most Innovative’ in state robotics tournament

By BETH DONZE

Young people are capable of a level of creative and technical prowess that often “blows away” adults.

That has been the case over the last four months at Our Lady of Prompt Succor School in Chalmette, as the school’s nine-member robotics team of mostly rookie members developed an app that ended up garnering the “Innovative Project Award” at the Louisiana FIRST LEGO League Challenge, a March 6 competition involving 30 teams from Louisiana and coastal Mississippi.

Presented with this year’s FIRST LEGO national challenge to create something that would motivate people to be more physically active, the team of students, who hail from grades 3-7, created a theoretical app called “Running Buddies at Torres Park,” for potential use at the St.

Bernard greenspace.

During lengthy afterschool brainstorming sessions, the young robotics aficionados came up with features they wanted on their app, including giving runners a selection of different routes; the ability to track their top speed and their daily, weekly and monthly mileage; and the option to run individually or as a group.

Other clever features the students integrated to keep runners (or walkers) motivated include a choice of avatars; music-sharing – to keep exer- cises in step as a group; and a tab that displays inspirational quotes such as “Don’t stop!”

Keep going!” and “I have faith in you!”

“When you think that most of these kids are 8, 9, 10 years old!” marveled Rachel Vogt, OLPS’ librarian and technology teacher, who co-moderates the robotics club with first-grade teacher Deborah Harris.

During their virtual presentation of the app to contest judges, team members presented a play, complete with a scenic backdrop of Torres Park. They handed out flyers challenging people to “Come run with me in Torres Park” featuring a QR code that enabled smart phones to access more information.

One app feature was recommended after the students showed their proposal to St.

Bernard Parish Councilman Joshua Moran: a 911 button.

“(Moran) said we do not have anything like this in the parish – he thought it was a really good idea!” said Vogt, noting that if the council decides the app is worthwhile, they could potentially approve its real development and locate grants earmarked for non-profit projects benefiting the community.

”We were all shocked when we won because we had never placed in anything before,” Harris said. “We were over the moon!”

The contest also required each team to build and program a robot that completed “missions” on a student-built playing field; and to be graded on the league’s core values of discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and fun.

(Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Prompt Succor School, Chalmette)

(above) and LEGObased robot, pictured at left. (Photos by Beth Donze)

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