2013 FIRST LEGO League Robotics Competition

Dean Kamen, entrepreneur and inventor, had a vision that one day scientists, engineers and mathematicians would be celebrated much like sports figures are in our pop culture. In 1989, he founded FIRST® (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) with this idea in mind.  FIRST® is a robotics science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) competition sponsored by LEGO® that places students in a “real-world” situation solving a problem using innovation and teamwork. Teams gain hands-on experience programming and engineering a robot, as well as teamwork experience brainstorming ideas and learning to manage time. FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL), in particular, involves teams with ages ranging from 9 to 14 years old.

Each year, teams are giving a unique and different challenge. This year’s challenge was “Nature’s Fury.” Teams were faced with the task of identifying a specific natural disaster such as an avalanche or landslide, tornado or cyclone, earthquake, tsunami, flood, volcanic eruption, hurricane, wildfire, or storm and then from that point, designing an innovative solution for the community. Their innovation is then tested in several areas:  robotics challenge, robot design, project and core values. The robotics challenge includes programming a robot to maneuver a playing field with obstacles related to the theme using a LEGO® brick with sensors, motors, and gears. Robot design allows the teams to showcase their robot and answer engineering-related questions regarding their build. The project portion involves the research work needed to solve the presented problem and the innovative solution in which they arrived. Finally, core values encompasses how the team worked together to solve the problem.

This year 58 FLL teams from all over various counties of West Virginia including school groups, 4-H clubs and Boy & Girl Scout teams attended the State Tournament at Fairmont State University on December 7, 2013, making it the largest STEM competition to date in our beautiful mountain state. It didn’t take long for Dean Kamen’s vision to materialize as the gymnasium transformed into a room full of competitors, spectators, and excited energy. Teams could be found in the pit and judging areas perfecting their robot programs, rehearsing their presentations, chanting team cheers, wearing costumes (one of the biggest traditional in FLL history), meeting new teams and making new friends.   One of the team members of the Brix Mix from Putnam County, who competed for the first time, stated, “This is a lot bigger than we thought it would be. This has been a GREAT learning experience!”

Awards for the 2013 West Virginia State Tournament

Champions Award, 1st Place, Nerdbots (Fairmont)
Champions Award, 2nd Place, SCIENEERS (Fairmont)
Champions Award, 3rd Place, Technomancers (Morgantown)
Robot Performance, 1st Place, Technomancers (Morgantown)
Robot Performance, 2nd Place, Robocats (Morgantown)
Robot Performance, 3rd Place, Nerdbots (Fairmont)
Project: Research, 1st Place, Silicon Stream (Mineral Wells)
Project: Innovative Solution, 1st Place, Infini-Miners (Morgantown)
Project: Presentation, 1st Place, Tech Nados (Arthurdale)
Robot Design: Mechanical Design, 1st Place, West Side CyberCubs (Fairmont)
Robot Design: Programming, 1st Place, Suncrest Stemtists (Morgantown)
Robot Design: Strategy and Innovation, 1st Place, Fairmont Blockheads (Fairmont)
Core Values: Gracious Professionalism, 1st Place, F.I.R.E. (Martinsburg)
Core Values: Teamwork, 1st Place, Warriors (Nitro)
Core Values: Inspiration, 1st Place, Fifth Element (Caldwell)
Judges Award: Against All Odds, Resolutions (Charleston)
Judges Award: Against All Odds, RebotiCX (Huntington)
Judges Award: Community Engagement, Coalbots (Pecksmill)
Outstanding Volunteer, Abraham Falsi, (Montgomery)
Adult Coach Award, Ann Burns, (Fairmont)
Youth Service Award, William (Morgantown)

The 2014 teaser “World Class” has already been released and can be viewed at the FIRST LEGO League website.  Since the WV State Tournament has become so large Todd Ensign, tournament director, made the announcement during the tournament that next year there will be five regional qualifying tournaments.  This step is a must as WV becomes a bigger and bigger player in STEM engagement initiatives and needs are met over all 55 counties.

To help make the State Tournament a success we enlisted 100 volunteers to assist in judging, registration, tour guides, social media gurus, as well as audio visual and sound technicians.   The MARS (Morgantown Area RoboticS) FRC high school robotics team volunteered to referee the robotics tables and challenges.

Sponsorship for the tournament included a $2,250.00 total donation from Thrasher Engineering, West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission in Science & Research, and Par Mar Stores.  These funds allow the winning Championship team additional monies to attend another FLL event such as the national tournament.  Additional sponsorship to help run the state tournament came from NASA’s Independent Verification &Validation Program, WV Space Grant Consortium, and Fairmont State University.

For more information visit the FIRST® LEGO® League homepage.

Jaime Ford
NASA’s IV&V Program ERC’s Graduate Assistant for Student Programs

IV&V ERC's Use of Ground-Penetrating Radar

Pam Casto is an education specialist in NASA IV&V’s Educator Resource Center. She is also a freelance archeology technician.

Many are surprised to learn that Googling the term “NASA Archaeology” will return 6,060 hits.

NASA, while developing remote sensing technology to examine far off places, has made life much easier for archaeologists on Earth. In the past searching for a lost tomb, lost city or even an entire lost civilization could take months or years. Now, it often only takes days.

With instruments on many different types of spacecraft, NASA examines the universe in many wavelengths of light: radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light waves, ultraviolet waves, x-rays and gamma rays. NASA also studies earth with some of these wavelengths and that has made archaeologists very happy.

For example, Dr. Compton Tucker, senior Earth scientist at NASA’s Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at Goddard Space Flight Center, used cutting-edge NASA technology, including magnetometers and ground-penetrating radar (GPR), to assist the government of Turkey in the location and excavation of ancient tombs. Tucker and his teams were racing against tomb robbers to find undisturbed tombs filled with archaeological treasures.

Thanks to NASA IV&V, educators in W.Va. also had the opportunity to use GPR to try to locate missing graves. With contributions from IV&V, WV Space Grant Consortium, Fairmont State University, Ohio Valley Archaeology and the Morgantown History Museum, W.Va. educators at a week-long 2011 summer camp explored how NASA uses wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum to study features of outer space and features here on Earth. One day was spent in an attempt to verify and validate stories of missing graves by doing a GPR survey to look for features at Kern’s Fort, a pre-Revolutionary War fort in Morgantown. GPR uses electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band to detect the reflected signals from subsurface structures. Graves typically reflect the waves differently than the surrounding soil.

Kern’s Fort was built in 1772 as a fortified cabin. Around 1774, a stockade wall was added. According to early records, it was one of the largest private forts in the area. There are sources from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s that refer to eleven burials at or near the fort. These include two children and six slaves who died of smallpox, two men killed in a skirmish with Native Americans (who were siding with the British), and Michael Kern’s himself, believed to be buried within one hundred yards of the fort. After the Revolutionary War, the stockade and various outbuildings inside it were taken down. The city of Morgantown grew up around the remaining cabin which was covered over with wooden lapboards in the 1800’s and still remains standing today on a small corner lot.

Under the direction of Dr. Jarrod Burk, a leading eastern US geophysical archaeologist, and the staff of IV&V’s Educator Resource Center, a GPR survey was performed around the fort itself and in some of the neighboring yards. Various anomalies were located and recorded. Interestingly, these anomalies appeared to start at a depth consistent with 1700’s artifacts recovered in a single 50 cm diameter shovel test pit excavated a few feet from the back wall of the fort. Last summer educators dug more test pits in neighboring yards and uncovered handmade clay marbles, post-Civil War pharmaceutical glass and an interesting unidentified ceramic object.  To determine if any of the anomalies are indeed the missing graves, an excavation would need to be conducted with the approval of the State Historical and Preservation Office. But it is now known, thanks to IV&V’s ERC, places to begin the excavations!

Pictured below: Just a few of the more than 100 artifacts recovered from a small shovel test pit.

Bone, Ceramic Artifacts

Pam Casto
Education Specialist
NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation Program

Sun-Earth Day 2013

Pam Casto is an Education Specialist who works in IV&V’s Educator Resource Center (ERC). 

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) created Sun-Earth Day in 2000 to present to people around the world background knowledge about the Sun, latest happenings on the Sun itself, and how the Sun interacts with life here on Earth. This year’s Sun-Earth Day will be observed on Friday, March 23, 2013.

According to the Sun-Earth Day website, “Sun-Earth Day is comprised of a series of programs and events that occur throughout the year with a celebration on or near the Spring Equinox.” A different theme is chosen each year that highlights some aspect of what we are learning about Sun-Earth interactions. 

Latest SDO/AIA 193 A Image

This year’s theme is “Solar Max – Storm Warning.” Presentations throughout the year will explore the electromagnetic storms, flares, coronal mass ejections, and sunspot activities. Various NASA heliophysics missions such as the Solar Dynamic Observatory and the Van Allen Probes will share discoveries about our star and its influence on Earth.

Special events planned for Friday include a live webinar streamed from Wallops Flight Facility by NASA Edge.

Date: March 22, 2013
Time:1:00 – 2:30 PM EST
Location:Wallops Flight Facility
URL:
http://www.ustream.tv/nasaedge

NASA EDGE: Sun Earth Day 2013

01:00:00

NASA EDGE

Open

 

Live up date from the Moon

01:03:10

Alex Young, NASA GSFC

All things Sun: Solar Max and SDO footage

01:12:10

Dan Smith, JHU/APL

Auroras: Van Allen Probes (RBSP) mission update

01:20:40

Lou Mayo and Kelly Fast, NASA GSFC

Planetary effects from the Sun: MAVEN, Venus, Sounding Rockets Mission

01:32:40

Doug Rowland, NASA GSFC

VISIONS: sounding rocket/aurora

01:37:40

Dan Smith , JHU/APL and Joe Burt, NASA/GSFC

How do scientists and engineers work together to complete a mission?

01:50:10

Doug Voss, NASA Wallops

LADEE Mission and upcoming launch from Wallops

01:58:10

Sarah Daugherty, NASA Wallops

Flight Director at Wallops

02:04:40

Elaine Lewis and Troy Cline, NASA GSFC

Updates and announcements—MMS, Sun-Earth Day, Space Weather Action Center, Winner of Solar Max Anime Contest

02:17:10

Alex Young, Kelly Fast, Dan Smith and Doug Rowland

Q & A

 

 

 

 

Pam Casto
Education Specialist
NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation Program

MMS Team Speaks to ERC Workshop

Eric Sylvania is the NASA Project Manager for the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS) IV&V effort. He is responsible for the day-to-day planning and execution of the technical and programmatic activities for the IV&V effort. Anita Berns is the Lead Engineer for the MMS IV&V effort and Brandon Miller is an analyst on the MMS IV&V Team.  

Each summer the Educator Resource Center (ERC) hosts a week-long workshop for educators on a variety of topics to supplement the curriculum and help meet national and state educational standards. In early July, the ERC hosted a group of educators for a “Space Weather” workshop, including an overview of magnetic reconnection and MMS. I, along with some other MMS IV&V team members, heard that the MMS project was going to be highlighted during the workshop, so we contacted the ERC to see if we could participate. As a result of this collaborative effort, Anita Berns, Brandon Miller and I were able to spend time with the educators in an effort to help them understand a little bit about what we do here at the NASA IV&V Program.

Project Manager Eric Sylvania and team speak to the workshop attendees about what they do for the project.

Anita and I provided the educators with an overview of the program, some insight into what IV&V is (and what IV&V is NOT!), and a few thoughts about the MMS project and the MMS IV&V effort, while Brandon provided some practical, real results from the IV&V analyses performed on MMS software. The educators were very receptive of the presentation, asked lots of questions and were very appreciative of the insight provided by the IV&V team. The IV&V team was very thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with the ERC and to be given an opportunity to talk to the folks on the front lines of our education system that will have a chance to influence the next generations of scientists, engineers and mathematicians.  

For more information about the ERC and/or opportunities to collaborate, contact Todd Ensign at todd.ensign@ivv.nasa.gov or learn more about the ERC by visiting their website at http://erc.ivv.nasa.gov.

For more information on this workshop, check out the ERC’s Josh Revels’ blog entry.  

Eric Sylvania
Project Manager
NASA’s Independent Verification & Validation Program