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Green Mountain Gears Win Global Innovation Award

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Thursday December 03, 2015

The Green Mountain Gears, based in South Burlington, won the Global Innovation Award and the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Vermont Championship Sunday, November 15 at Norwich College. The Gears joined 27 other Vermont teams, grades four through eight, to present their robot project and to compete in core values and the robot game for Trash Trek. More than 200,000 kids on more than 20,000 teams across 30 countries participated in FLL this year.

The Gears team won the award for their project Sorta Scrappy, which is available free on both iTunes and Google Play. Sorta Scrappy teaches players to sort trash by tilting a mobile device to move a trash can to capture trash. As the levels advance, players need to avoid catching recyclables and compostable items and use the trashcan to push those items into the appropriate receptacle. Each level starts with facts about waste and the backgrounds show how waste moves from a typical home to the landfill.

The team developed the idea during research interviews with Eli Lesser-Goldsmith from Healthy Living and Rhonda Mace from the Chittenden Solid Waste District. Damon Strempek, a sixth grader at Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School (FHTMS) developed the artwork and animations using Anime Studio. Luke Fitzgerald, a FHTMS sixth grader, and Ethan Behr, a Mater Christi eighth grader, took lead on the musical score and developed music using Garage Band. Luke Fitzgerald and Kenny Chamberlain, FHTMS sixth grader, coded the game in C# for Unity. Myles Peterson, a Hinesburg Community School sixth grader, provided valuable input during alpha testing.

Luke Fitzgerald, Ethan Behr and Andrew Kim, FHTMS seventh grader, designed the robot base. Luke and Kenny designed two attachments that used forward and backward line following, a touch sensor, a rack gear and crown and spur gear. Kim and Strempek designed an attachment that also used a rack gear, double bevel gears, line following with a color sensor and a touch sensor. Behr and Peterson designed an attachment that used a series of double bevel gears and hard rubber along with an ultrasonic sensor and color sensor for line following. Vihit Gupta, FHTMS sixth grader, and Peterson designed a controllable tilt roof that was used in the robot game.

More than 70 people evaluated the game and completed surveys at the Maker Faire, a community-based learning event, at Shelburne Farms held this October. The team determined that users liked the game, thought more about sorting waste as a result the game, and thought they would sort better in real-life after playing the game. This game resulted from a four year evolution of coding that started with Scratch and moved to Game Maker and finally to Unity. 

Paul Fitzgerald started the FLL team four years ago, following a year of Junior FLL. The team finished near the bottom of the field at the Dartmouth Qualifier during the first year, but the team continued to develop their skills and increase their capacity to solve complex problems. The team learned many critical life skills this year, such as what makes a powerful leader and how leaders often get the best ideas from their team. The team also learned to balance relative versus absolute priorities. Members learned to shuffle their various responsibilities to keep the team moving forward when individuals needed to miss practices due to conflicts. 

Paul Fitzgerald, Guest Contributor. For more information, visit