Thursday June 30, 2016
The Green Mountain Gears traveled to the US Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C. June 20 to join the other 19 semi-finalists, from nearly 24,000 teams in 23 countries, in the Global Innovations Award (GIA) event. The top prize for the GIA is $20,000 XPrize and a TED-ED appearance. The judges at the Vermont Regional First Lego League Championship nominated the Green Mountain Gears team for their project, Sorta Scrappy, which is an app designed to teach kids how to sort waste properly. The app is available on both the Google Play and iTunes store.
Myles Peterson described the problem of sorting waste to the judges and highlighted facts from experts such as, “40 percent of the food that is grown is put in landfills.” Ethan Behr and Kenny Chamberlain described the “Frankenstein” development of the project where team members found pieces of code in existing projects and combined them to make their new game. They presented photos from the design of the game, to the creation of artwork by Damon Strempek, and music by Luke Fitzgerald, to the final coding to add the tile controls that made the app so fun on portable devices.
Vihit Gupta and Andrew Kim described the STEM principles invoked in the game, from the survey monkey data and graphs from beta testers to the 71 people the team surveyed at the Maker Fair. Kim also described a controlled study the team conducted at Mater Christi School to determine whether or not the app would improve sorting behavior.
Over the course of three days, the Green Mountain Gear team met kids from Canada, Germany, Spain, and Chile while attending courses on patent applications, pitching products, and networking. The team also met with Drew Hirshfeld, the director of the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the founder of FIRST, Dean Kamen. Although they were not finalists, the team learned a great deal; they are eager to get started on this year’s project for Animal Allies.
The Green Mountain Gear’s success arose from four years of hard work, travel, and experience. Most of the team members also participate in Odyssey of the Mind (OM) which promotes creativity and improvisation. The year-round participation also keeps the kids working problems together, which builds their common base of experiences. Paul Fitzgerald, Steve Kim, and Adam Peterson founded Teams of Innovative Problem Solvers (TIPS) Inc., a 501.3c non-profit, to form and support teams, like the Gears, where kids work on activities like FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), for part of the year and OM during other parts of the year. TIPS (www.tipsvt.org) is seeking sponsors and hopes to expand opportunities for more kids.
The team expressed gratitude to Norwich University and David Feinauer for bringing a regional event to Vermont, which gives Vermont teams a chance to compete closer to home and “to observe engineering labs with supportive and gracious students”.
By Paul Fitzgerald, Guest Contributor. For more information, visit www.greenmountaingears.org.