One piece at a time

There are a small group of teenagers in Houma for whom Legos are more than just toys; instead, to this team, the plastic building blocks have the potential to solve the world’s problems. The Queen Beez team, comprised of Maycie Pinell and Elysia Brown, both 13, won Grand Champion in the Hydro Dynamics Challenge, advancing the team to the Louisiana State Championship on December 16th, which will be held in New Orleans.

The team provided a presentation with Lego blocks on how to avoid flushing toilets with drinking water.

“When you wash your hands, the water isn’t really that dirty,” Maycie said. The two created a catch system, by flipping a lever, to recycle the pre-used sink water for operation of a toilet.

Maycie, of Bayou Blue Middle School, and Elysia, of Evergreen Junior High, also constructed and programmed a robot of Lego bricks, which competed in a two-and-a-half-minute round. They used a program named Lego Mindstorm to direct their bot through challenges such as switching out broken pipes with new ones, and in one mission, dropping a container into a water tank, thereby activating a switch, and releasing a water fountain. The duo, and their Lego compatriot, scored 175 points placing them 50 points ahead of next closest team.

The two named their robot “KateNexus” after their screen names on the video game Minecraft: Kate345 and Casualnexus. The two began playing the video game together after meeting on the Queen Beez team. Elysia described the length of the robot as about that of her middle finger to her wrist, and the total height was that of a half-sized coke can.

KateNexus is composed of four primary parts. The top of the robot is the EV3 brick. This brick has a computer within it which sensors and motors can be hooked to. This piece rests on top of a large square foundation, or body, which houses the motors. Underneath the square body of the robot are the wheels which allow it to navigate the courses. Finally, the robot has arms which it uses to manipulate the environment around it, and for this contest they had a trashcan which they used to push objects around.

The competition was judged on three criteria: The Project, Core Values and the Robot itself. According to the First Lego League website, each of these was subdivided into categories as well. The project portion is graded on Research, Innovative solution and presentation. The Core values are graded on Inspiration, teamwork and Gracious Professionalism. Lastly, the Robot is graded on four parts: Mechanical Design, Programming, Robot performance, and Strategy and Innovation.

The Queen Beez only won the Robot Performance portion of these categories; however, their overall score in each of the categories, when tallied up, was so high that they won the Grand Champion award.

The coaches of the team, Brenda Babin and Sheila Reese, are informed of the challenges prior to the event, to allow their team time to program and construct their champion. “I’m an amazed at how far these girls have come in the last 4 years,” said Babin, “I am very proud of these girls.” Babin further explained how the two were focusing on creating a model to better explain their presentation for the State Championships.

Individuals must be between the ages of 9 and 14 to take part. The Queen Beez team is sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Louisiana East and the Busy Bee Clinic. The Busy Bee Clinic is a computer training center owned by Ms. Babin, and four years ago, “the Girl Scouts approached me to start a Girl Scouts team,” said Babin.

Because the duo only has one year left to compete on the Queen Beez, they’re considering possibilities for their futures. Elysia expressed interest in seeking out Robotics at HL Bourgeois High School, stating that the robot Destrahan High had on display was very impressive, “it was made out of real parts,” she said, “it was faster and bigger and shot balls.” •

The Queen Beez Lego Team, comprised of Maycie Pinell and Elysia Brown, both 13, won Grand Champion in the Hydro Dynamics Challenge, which advanced the duo to the State Championship in mid-December.