Robotics team takes top spot in state competition

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[From L-R] Planet Robotics members Aditya Naravane, Dyuthi Prashanth, Richaa Volety, Ishika Kumar, Arnav Gupta,Mithun Saravanan, and Jiaan Shah hold their first place championship award at the Rhode Island FLL State Championship. Courtesy photos

By Max Bowen

A group of young robotics experts have earned some impressive accolades.

North Attleborough-based Planet Robotics received the First Place Champions Award, Robot Performance Award (Highest Robot Score)and Global Innovation Award Rhode Island Nominee at the Rhode Island First Lego League State Championship at Roger William University. Planet Robotics competed with 36 of the best robotics teams in the competition, held on Saturday, Jan. 11.

The Champions and Global Innovations awards relate to the team’s latest project, a Smart Trash Can. All teams had to do a research project in the broad area of “problems related to public spaces.” The Planet Robotics team has participated in Keep North Attleboro Beautiful [KNAB] for the last two years and know firsthand about the amount of trash in public spaces such as parks, ponds, and downtown. In particular, they saw how trash cans were filled to overflowing during the weekends and holidays.

The Smart Trash Can detects when a certain percentage of a barrel is full. There are three lights—green, yellow, and red. When the light turns red, it indicates the barrel is nearly full and pings an alerts to a Waste Management professional about its status and location on a smart phone app. As part of the competition, the team had to demonstrate how the device works. Members of Planet Robotics said they went through a number of designs and eventually came up with one that is weather-proofed and can be used on different types of barrels. They estimate that the system costs $30 based on the parts used.

The event also featured a robot performance portion. Teams chose a challenge from a list provided by the organizers and programmed a robot to complete it. Planet Robotics designed a robot to perform a number of tasks, including moving colored blocks to a matching circle and moving up a ramp. Co-coach Pallavi Naravane said that among the things teams were graded on was how well they worked together.

They knock off points for teams that don’t work together well,” she said.

The team will advance to the First Championship, to be held in April in Detroit, Mich. This event is a celebration of STEM for students, bringing together tens of thousands of students from around the world who participate in PreK-12 robotics programs.

To challenge themselves for the state competition, the team learned to solve a 3×3 Rubik’s Cube and many other puzzles. The team came up with the idea of conducting 90-minute Rubik’s Cube Workshops to help other kids learn to solve the cube and to give them the confidence to master the challenges.

To date, the team has conducted four Rubik’s Cube Workshop at local libraries and community centers and has taught more than 75 children and adults how to solve the cube. Among these was one held at the Richards Memorial Library on Dec. 30.