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AA Determined Dolphins make a splash at the Junior FIRST LEGO League Expo

Castle Pines residents Ella Greenhow, Charlie Tucker, Claire Benko, Emerson Yu, Lauren Brockman, and Ava Stotler pose in front of their team display at the Global Expo.

By Lynne Marsala Basche; photos courtesy of American Academy

The American Academy (AA) Junior FIRST LEGO League (Jr.FLL) robotics team participated in the 2015 First World Championship Global Expo in St. Louis and was the only team from Colorado to do so.  AA’s team, the Determined Dolphins (DD), joined groups from around the world to present their response to this year’s Jr.FLL challenge, “ThinkTank,” which instructed teams to determine a “place to learn.”

The DD team consisted of six third graders from Castle Pines and their coach, AA STEM instructor Julie Weiss.  The team decided to answer the challenge by focusing on marine hospitals and learning about why dolphins become patients.  The DD team researched information on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium website, which is home to one of the premier facilities to rescue, rehabilitate, and release marine animals.

Through their investigation, the team learned that many dolphins accidentally get caught in fishing nets each year and become injured.  The DD team knew they wanted to focus their attention on researching a tool that would allow dolphins to detect fishing nets.  The team leveraged the findings of Dolphin Alert, which is a speaker that hangs from fishing boats to warn dolphins and presented their findings at the Global Expo.

The team’s research and hard work paid off, and the DD team won the Jr.FLL Explosive Ideas Award at the Global Expo.

When asked about her experience Weiss said, “I loved watching these kids engage and grow throughout the 12-week project.  I was so fortunate to be able to bring them to St. Louis and watch them present their hard work and ideas to students from all over the world.  Our team was so excited to meet the team from China, and even though they did not speak English, the smiles on their faces said it all.  I enjoyed each and every moment with these kids, and the experience was absolutely amazing.”

Charlie Tucker holding the team’s Explosive Ideas Award, appropriately made entirely out of LEGOs.

DD team member Charlie Tucker echoed Weiss’ sentiments.  “My experience was great, and it was better than I thought it would be because we got to build with LEGOs and we got to program what we built to move.  It was really cool when it actually worked and moved!  I liked working with my team, we all had something to do, and then when the different parts came together our project turned out to be pretty cool.  Learning about the dolphins was neat, too.  I really loved the fun time we had in St. Louis and meeting kids from different parts of the world and exchanging bracelets and buttons, and seeing all the cool LEGO projects.”

The team plans to continue pursuing its interest in helping dolphins, including expanding the research to include the use of prosthetics.  The DD team was so moved by their findings that they also “adopted” the dolphin “Winter” from the movie Dolphin Tale for the next year.  Way to go Determined Dolphins!



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