When Oxford Junior High students Kareem El-Beshbeeshy, Om Agarwal and Umar Timbo got together in October, they never imagined that just eight months later they would be headed to Washington, D.C. with an award-winning idea on their hands.
The students are part of the Imhotep's Legacy Academy's FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team, "Legos R Us," which was chosen as one of 20 global finalists this year to attend the Seventh Annual FIRST Global Innovation Awards Ceremony in the U.S. capital from June 18 to 20.
The FLL competition encourages students to use LEGO Mindstorms robotics technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to solve real-world problems they are passionate about. FLL is one of the core programs at Imhotep's Legacy Academy (ILA), a Dal-led initiative that provides hands-on activities to help get more African Nova Scotian youth involved in STEM fields.
This year’s FLL theme was “Animal Allies” and the Imhotep team — nine students and two Dal student mentors — stepped up to the challenge right away, developing an animal-deterrent system for use on the wild horses of Sable Island, N.S. The system will ensure that the horses don’t become too habituated to humans.
“We used basically micro controllers and infrared and ultrasonic sensors that collect data of animals that are in a close range that we’ve set for them to be detected. Once they are, there is a speaker module that emits a sound that is intolerable for the horses so it basically acts as a deterrent,” explained Om, a grade-nine student, in a recent interview with Metro Halifax.
Third-year Dal Engineering student Samuel Okoroafor joined Imhotep last summer and jumped at the chance to mentor this year's FLL team.
“Mentoring with Imhotep is all about getting kids interested in STEM,” he says. “I want to help eliminate the fear that some kids have for STEM and this was a great opportunity.”
Okoroafor says the invitation to attend the award ceremony in Washington has been a great motivator for the group.
“The students have gained a lot of self confidence over the course of this competition” he says. “They are always motivated, and over the course of the year have significantly developed their problem-solving skills.”
As one of only three Canadian teams invited to the finals, a new challenge arises for the team: fundraising.
The students are using the projectDal crowd-funding site to raise funds for their trip to Washington but are still $3,590 short of their $16,000 goal. The students hope to reach that goal by June 17 when they leave for the conference, where they have the chance to win money to put towards improving their design.
The team has come a long way. From winning the regional qualifications in Halifax to receiving the 2017 Innovative Solution Award, the team agrees that this journey has been an incredible opportunity.
Whether they make it to D.C. or not, Orokoafor is proud of the teams accomplishments.
“It was an experience I will never forget.”
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