Roboteers study food safety
The Intellibots are going to the finals. In just their second year as a Lego Robotics team, three El Dorado Hills ninth graders and four middle schoolers qualified for the Northern California FIRST Lego League Capital District Championships scheduled in Rocklin on Feb. 12.
Along they way the students think they’ve figured out how to make the neighborhood salad bar safer.
The team had to prove its mettle in Livermore on Dec, 3, where they won the Champion’s Award for excellence, graciousness, professionalism, teamwork and innovation — skills just as important as making robots out of stackable plastic building blocks.
The First Lego League pits teams of aspiring engineers, ages 9 through 14, in a competition to design and build an autonomous robot that performs a series of missions.
The Intellibot robot named “Bright” won the Robot Performance Award in Livermore.
Each team also selects a problem in a league-defined theme, then proposes solutions.
This year’s theme was food safety. The Intellibots focussed on salad, then learned about how bacterial contamination in leafy greens can lead to illness or even death.
Their solution, according to coach Murali Golconda, is a combination of “bacteriophage” and “ultrasonication” spray.
“Bacteriophages are viruses, harmless to humans, but lethal to bacteria,” he explained.
But the bacteria are adept at hiding beneath a protective film. “Ultrasonication disrupts the protective film and lets the bacteriophages do their job,” he said.
Golconda contacted experts at UC Davis and the USDA Agricultural Service, who confirmed that the Intellibots’ safe salad solution has merit, he said.
Over the weekend his team demonstrated their robot and talked up the Lego Leagues and their food safety research at the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Qualifying Tournament held at Oak Ridge High School on Sunday.
The First Lego League is just one of the age-bracketed youth robotics competitions organized by the not-for-profit “FIRST” — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.
The competition promotes interest in science and technology at an age when many would otherwise be playing video games, said Golconda.
The Intellibots are made up of three ninth graders, two eighth graders, one seventh grader and a sixth grader: Rohit Golconda, 14; Rohan Konnur, 14; Vineeth Somanchi, 14; Monish Ramadoss, 13; Vivian Li, 13; Shilpa Rao, 13 and Rishi Somanchi, 11.