Most weekends for the last 4 1/2 months, a group of fifth- and sixth-grade girls from Fayette and Old Mill Road elementary schools in North Merrick have gotten together to work on two projects: building a robot and designing a technology that they say could restore sight to the blind.
Maggie Caroddo, Abby D’Antonio, Christa Dressler, Celestial Hakim, Jadyn Hakim, Kerri Keener and Julia Oladipo are competing this spring in FIRST Lego League, a worldwide tournament that challenges teams of 9- to 14-year-old children to demonstrate their engineering and technology skills, as well as their teamwork and creative problem-solving. The competition involves a robot-building contest and projects focused on a different themes each year. This year’s theme deals with improving the lives of seniors.
These North Merrick girls — collectively, the “Robotic Cookie Monsters” — will showcase their work at a Long Island-wide FLL Championship Tournament on March 3 at Longwood High School in Middle Island. The Robotic Cookie Monsters already made it through a qualifying tournament on Feb. 2 at Central Islip Senior High School, where they placed second out of the 50 teams, according to team coaches Rich Caroddo and Chris Dressler.
Judges scored teams on their robots’ performances at a number of assigned tasks, such as throwing a ball, raising a flag, picking up objects and moving, turning and stopping on cue. They also judged the robots on their mechanical designs and programming, the “Senior Solutions Challenge” projects on their research, presentation and innovation, and the teams on their collaboration and professionalism.
The seven girls of Robotic Cookie Monsters, who know one another through Girl Scouts, built a robot using Lego Mindstorm construction toys and programmed it with the computer software that accompanies the Mindstorm kit. They also researched and put together a detailed proposal for a technology they say could restore vision to people who have been rendered blind or severely visually impaired by diseases such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and retina pigmentosa.