RoboFalcons Swoop Down On Competition

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The RoboFalcons presented their project “Let There BEE Light” at the FLL Championships.

The RoboFalcons, a robotics team consisting of some of Jericho Middle School’s brightest young students, has left yet another First Lego League (FLL) Championship with a trove of awards to show for their hard work and creativity. The team received three awards, the highest number of awards given to a single team in the championship tournament, in which 40 teams participated.

“It was a very good season and it showed, because they won the most awards of any team in the championships,” said Rohit Bhatia, head coach of the RoboFalcons and father of one of the team’s members. “They were of course expecting more, but it’s good to keep our expectations high.”

The FLL Championships, held at Longwood High School on Sunday, March 5, brought together student teams from all across Long Island, who performed tasks surrounding this year’s theme of “Animal Allies.”

The competition challenges participants to devise ideas and prototypes that serve for the betterment of relations between humans and animals. Given the current ongoing decline of the bee population, the RoboFalcons decided to focus their efforts on ways to remedy such a far-reaching global issue.

The RoboFalcons are joined by Coach Rohit Bhatia while accepting an award.

After extensive research, the team learned that bees have the ability to distinguish between patterns of Ultraviolet (UV) light, and tend to prefer certain patterns over others. Their project entitled “Let There BEE Light” entailed using technology in the form of machine learning/artificial intelligence algorithms to learn and predict the behavior of bees surrounding certain UV spectrums, which could in turn help to promote the growth of their natural habitat and steer them away from pesticide infected plants.

In order to demonstrate their findings, aside from just presenting a prototype to the panel of judges, the RoboFalcons performed a short skit to the tune of “Don’t Worry Bee Happy,” a play on the lyrics of the popular song by Bobby McFerrin, which earned them the Project Presentation Award.

The other two awards bestowed upon the young robotics masters were the Robot Performance Award and the Alliance Award, which they won in conjunction with the Buckley Cyber Dogs Team. Prior to the championship round, they were also awarded the Core Values Gracious Professionalism Award at the FLL Qualifying Tournament held earlier at Mineola High School.

Leading up to the competition,the team met with an entomologist, a beehive keeper and a mammal horticulturist, and also performed community outreach projects affecting animals in some way.

By making a GoFundMe page, they were able to raise more than $1,000, which was then donated to North Shore Animal League and Pandas International, a nonprofit organization based in China that aims to protect the endangered Giant Panda. They also held a food drive at a local Petco, and a blanket and newspaper drive, collecting items shelters are in need of every day, at Jericho Middle School.

“The kids are doing all this because they want to,” said Bhatia marveling at the dedication of his young team members. “It’s not a school program, they just really love it. Some kids were new, but now they are all best friends because of it. They represent such a diverse cultural group, but these kids have brought families together. Even the parents have become a family.”

Coming off a successful year, the RoboFalcons already have their sights set on next season. While they are not yet sure as to what next year’s specific mission may be, they know that it will be centered around hydrodynamics, and are excited to begin learning about how water is transported and can be used to craft practical solutions to problems facing society.

“Everything is a learning experience,” said Bhatia. “So I tell my kids to take the weaknesses in stride and look toward next year.”

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Nicole Lockwood is the editor of the New Hyde Park Illustrated News, Mineola American and contributing writer for Long Island Weekly.

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