Building robots and serving our community

One student uses an iPad to control the robot while another sets it into motion.

Knox County’s FIRST Robotic Teams came together on Monday, December 9 to showcase and test their robotic engineering in preparation for the regional competition to be held in Hazard on Saturday, December 14.  Besides building robots, the students had the needs of their community in mind.

All seven Knox County robot teams posed for a photo after a day of testing their robots

Part of the FIRST Robotic program is to address and help solve a community problem.  Each team, as part of their final score at the competition, must share the community service project that they selected and how it will better their community.

Recently making news was the G.R. Hampton blue blessings boxes installed at Barbourville City Hall and at the school.  Solving a hunger issue of the community, the team encourages those who can give non-perishable food items to place them in one of the blue blessing boxes.  Individuals and families who need food are free to visit the blue box and take what they need.

Girdler Elementary students interviewed Mayor David Thompson about the concerns he has for the city.  They choose to address needles being thrown out in grass areas and playgrounds.  The students worked with the Knox County Health Department to discuss what has already been done and ways that they, with community support, can put an end to the needle dumping.

Flat Lick Elementary students researched a need within their own school.  The students learned about what it would take to fundraise and build handicap-accessible playground equipment both at their school and in the county.

Dewitt Elementary reached out to first responders in their community, the fire department, to address their needs.  The department said that they need more hydrants installed in the area.  A concern of the community is the need for high-pressure water in remote areas for emergencies.

Central Elementary students researched the best practices for rebuilding after a natural disaster.  They chose this topic because of the flooding that impacted the Kay Jay community last year.  The students talked with professionals and the staff at W.D. Bryant Hardware to available materials and the costs involved.

Lay Elementary looked at a regional problem of coal waste products.  The students researched what it would take to turn the products into hydrocarbon fuels to cut the cost for fuel without extracting from the earth.  They would take existing waste, turn it into fuel, and help clean up the earth’s environment.  The students identified a company in Corbin, ARQ, that will be implementing this.

Lynn Camp Elementary is working on the bigger scale problem of opioid addiction.  Their solution was to create their own app to monitor addicts and reward them for staying off the prescription drugs.

On Saturday at East Perry Elementary, the seven Knox County teams will join others from across the region to compete with robots but also see how creativity and engineering can solve issues that we face today.

The mission of FIRST® is to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership.  In Knox County, Jennifer Carey with the district’s gifted and talented program and Travis Mills, PLTW Engineering teacher, assist school level coaches in mentoring students for the competition.