Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Kids! of the Month – March 2011 – Robotic Engineers!

By Kasey Dallman, AKOM Writer

Quotes of the Month

“Robotics is about creating something to help humans and go places where we can’t go for various reasons.”

“We need more kids to know that exploring and being interested in science, technology, math, and engineering at an earlier age is important to the success and competiveness of our nation in the future.”

-Landroids Team, Amazing Young Robotic Creators, Ages 14-15.

March Amazing Kids! of the Month

As we move further into the 21st century, exciting new advances in science and technology are being made at an increasingly fast pace. New technologies are being created each and every day that will help us explore new frontiers of knowledge and create innovations which people from generations before ours never even imagined would be possible.

For one small group of teen boys in New Jersey who named themselves the “Landroids,” learning skills and knowledge to develop their own engineering designs that will help them contribute to future technology is more than just a dream, it is becoming a reality. They tested their skills by competing in the 2010 MoonBots competition, sponsored by Google Inc., LEGO System, National Instruments, and Wired’s GeekDad. This international competition, involving 212 teams and lasting over multiple months, challenged teams to design and create a robot that performed simulated lunar missions. And out of the hundreds of people competing, the Landroids took home the trophy!

Not only is this team developing into the new engineers of the future, but they are a hard working and dedicated group who show us that if we believe we can do something, we can make it happen! Amazing Kids! honors the Landroids team as our March Amazing Kids! of the Month. This creative and diligent bunch of teen boys and their coaches are adding to the world of technology, and ensuring that in the future we will have the resources and the knowledge to go places we never dreamed possible!

Meet the Landroids Team

New Jersey is known for the Turnpike, Jersey food, and plenty of seasons of reality shows to fill your TiVo. But after last year’s MoonBots competition, it is also known for the Landroids Team! The robotics club started with a group of seven 6th grade boys. Starting in 2007, Landroids began as a competitor in the FIRST LEGO league (FLL). Through all the success they have had in competitions, the team has grown more popular. “We formed a club called Livingston Robotics Club, helping other neighborhood and school teams to form and pass on experiences,” the Landroids team says. Now their town of Livingston has 16 various forms of teams.

So just who are these whiz kids who are part of the popular Landroids team? The boys who competed in the MoonBots competition were five 14 year old boys: Karlin Yeh, Stanley Cheung, Gage Farestad, Jeffery Dong, and Brian Lee. Also assisting and mentoring the team is John Yeh, age 46, who serves as the robotics coach.

The Landroids team in Denmark with the LEGO CEO!

In addition to the MoonBots competitor members, the Landroids team has also grown and now consists of Pearl Hwang, a new Project and Judging coach and two more teammates; Sam Yang, age 15, Vijay Manon, age 14.

It’s hard to believe that the team has been in the works since some of the members became friends in kindergarten. “Karlin was the one who got us all involved,” the team notes. “Each year, some of us would go with Karlin to see the (robotics) tournament.” After going through a long process to get onto a robotics team, Karlin’s parents began a FLL team on their own. “Karlin called up the same group of friends to join, and that was how we started the Landroids team. We have been hooked with the same passion ever since.” Throughout the years members have resigned due to work and school commitments, making it possible for eager kids to also jump on board.

 

The MoonBots Competition

The Landroids heard about the MoonBots Competition from an email blast. The competition is sponsored by Google Inc., LEGO System, National Instruments, and Wired’s GeekDad. The competition consists of 2 phases. The first phase started on April 15th, 2010. “Each team submitted a robot design proposal using LEGO Digital Designer, a video essay on the reason for lunar exploration, a team webpage location, and a team blog or video blog entries.” Phase two started in the end of June. Out of the 212 teams that competed in the competition, only twenty finalist teams made it. The Landroids team explained how they were given a 7.5 ft x 7.5 ft LEGO Moonbots mission field to proceed with the actual robot design. In this complex phase, teams had to build a robot, make a documentary video, make a team blog, and have a 3 minute live webcast of the robot missions. “To tackle the LEGO moonscape, the robot had to be able to pick up loops, maneuver the rough terrain, and use various sensors to navigate, without coming back to base until the end of the 3 minutes time.”

The Landroids robot they built for the MoonBots competition.

The Landroids team came up with two different robot designs, but due to complications with one, they settled on the design that had a simple fork with a joint similar to a wrist that could flip objects. “The navigation control was accomplished with a compass sensor to detect the robot’s bearing, an EOPD sensor to sense its location on the ground level, and a pair of ultrasonic sensors to wall-follow the boarders and know when to stop.” The team also explains how all of the robot design, programming, and sensor testing was done by the team members, NOT the adult coaches. Pretty impressive!

Even though this amazing group of kids took home the title of MoonBots champions, they weren’t without problems. “Like any other team, there were obstacles we faced during the MoonBots challenge. One was to give up an elaborate claw design and learn when to let go of something that does not work well and make compromises on what is achievable within the deadline.” The team also explains how they lost all of their programs a week before the deadline. Despite it looking grim, the team persevered, putting in 12 to 14 hours a day just to rewrite all the codes and post the video on time.

The Landroids team also credits all the other participants for making this competition so rewarding. “There were so many good ideas and quality work helping us to learn from each other, it made this competition extremely unique and accelerated everyone’s learning curve.”

The team may be winners in the MoonBots competition, but they still have challenges. “Somehow getting the first place award puts a lot of pressure on us due to other people’s expectations and perceptions.” However, it is the teams winning attitude that really brings them to the next level. “We have to stay focused, knowing that the challenge is on us to learn; winning is a byproduct of hard work and luck, and (we shouldn’t take) anything for granted. As long as we do our best, there is no regret,” the team adds!

 

Looking into the Future

As of September, 2010, the successful robotics team has been able to advance into First Tech Challenge (FTC), a high school level robotics competition.

The 2010 FTC Landroids Team!

“FTC is like an advanced version of FLL (First LEGO league), but larger in scale and complexity, and we will need to learn to build with metals, wood, using more sensors and electronics to build a large robot,” the team says. The team also traveled to the LEGO headquarters in Denmark as part of the prize for winning the MoonBots competition!

 

The future of robotics doesn’t just apply to this amazing young team, but also relies on you! “We want other kids to know that robotics can be a fun and exciting journey to learn about the field of science and technology,” the team says. “It has a very promising future and can become a major factor in factories, construction, military, and even biomedical engineering.” The team also explains how it isn’t just the gifted students in math and science who can explore this new realm of technology. “You don’t have to be a genius to learn about robotics, you just need the ambition to work hard and have fun.” And learning about technology more now could help us in the future. “Technology is vital for mankind to progress, and I want to help,” Brian Lee, a team member of Landroids adds.

With already a great work ethic and passion for technology, the future is open for these kids. And most of the members are looking into the field of engineering! “I want to go to MIT and maybe study marine engineering,” Karlin Yeh, the 14 year old lead robot designer says. “Being in Landroids, I realize how impactful and innovative an engineer is,” Stanley Cheung says.

Being last year’s winners of the MoonBots competition had an additional benefit for the team: Team Landroids were invited to attend the new Google Science Fair (GSF) announcement event at Google’s New York City Headquarter on January 11, 2011! According to Google, the Google Science Fair is the world’s largest online science competition and is open to kids ages 13-18 from around the world working on their own, or on a team of two or three students. (Deadline is April 4, 2011!) To be invited to the announcement event was a big honor for the Landroids and says a lot about just how much the team is respected by the science community. Way to go, Landroids!

The world has so much more for us to explore and find out. With the initiative and imagination that the members of the Landroids team possess, they’ll no doubt help drive technology further into the future!

Other Accomplishments!

Landroids’ Team Key Accomplishments (2007 – 2010)

– 1st place international Google X PRIZE MoonBots challenge – September 2010

– 1st place 8th grade national eCYBERMISSION science research competition – June 2010

The Landroids accepting the eCYBERMISSION award!

 

 

– 1st place Champion’s Award, WPAFB Founder’s Award, 1st place Alliance Award at FIRST LEGO League US Open Championship – May 2009

– 1st place NJ State Robot Design Award – 2009

– 1st place NJ State FLL Champion’s Award – 2007, 2008

– 2nd place Robot Design and 3rd place Robot Performance Awards at FLL World Festival – April 2008

– Hosted the annual Liberty Science Center robotics exhibitions – 2008, 2009, 2010.

– Wrote, compiled and presented a 5-week, 10 hours long, “Kids Teaching Kids” FIRST LEGO League workshop to train new teams. This PowerPoint training material was translated to Thai to train 20 new Thailand FLL teams in country’s first year participation in FLL – summer 2009

 

Karlin Yeh: Has competed with Landroids for 4 years!

• Lead Robot Disigner, Builder and Lead Programmer for Landroids

• School Gifted and Talented program

• Silver Satori Award in Cognetics contest 2008

• MA US Open Cup sailboat racing, ranked #10 in under age 12 – August 2008

• MA US Open Cup sailboat racing, ranked #2 in freestyle – August 2009

• Sculptures and artworks displayed in Livingston art shows 2007, 2008

• Illustrator and contributor to Heritage Middle School Newspaper 2009

• Essex County NJ Fishing Derby winner 2006 to 2010

• 2008 Essex County fishing record holder of 100 fish in 100 minutes

• Solar car building and racing 2008

• Sports: windsurfing, sailing, mountain biking, skiing

• Honor Roll

 

Brian Lee: Has been with the Landroids for 2 years!

• Sensor Testing, programming, electronics person for Landroids

• School Gifted and Talented program

• Silver Satori Award in Cognetics contest 2007, 2009

• New Jersey Regions and All-State Orchestras, 2009

• Won several county and state math competitions

• Sports: tennis

• Music: cello

• High Honor Roll

 

Stanley Cheung: Has been with the Landroids for 3 years!

• Strategist, sensor testing, programming, video editing, and electronics person for Landroids.

• School Gifted and Talented program

• Silver Satori Award in Cognetics 2007-2008

• Bronze Satori in Cognetics 2008-2009

• Solar car building and racing 2008

• Math Counts

• 1st in class for the American Mathematics competition

• Sports: cross country running

• Music: violin

• High Honor Roll

 

Gage Farestad: Has competed with the Landroids for 3 years!

• LEGO Digital Designer, graphic rendering, and video editor for Landroids

• Speaks Chinese

• Solar car building and racing 2008

• Sports: hiking, camping

• Music: viola

• Honor Roll

 

Jeffrey Dong: Has competed with the Landroids for 3 years!

• Documentary, video editing, and final compilation for the Landroids

• School Gifted and Talented program

• Eastern Zone Swimming Competition 2008

• Play violin in NJ Youth Symphony 2006-08; concert master assistant in Sinfonia Orchestra, and play first violin in Chamber Music 2008

• Grade 4 merit certificate in Theory of Music from Associated Board of the Royal School of Music (ABRSM) 2009

• Sports: competitive swimming, tennis

• Music: piano, violin

• High Honor Roll

 

Sam Yang and Vijay Manon are both new members who have joined the Landroids after the MoonBots competition. Sam has had about 1 year experience with a different team, and Vijay has had about 4 years experience with 2 previous teams.

 

To learn more about these incredible kids and the Landroids, visit these websites:

• Team official website: www.landroids.org

• Lunar Landroids website for MoonBots: www.landroids.org/lunar

• Livingston Robotics Club (the Club we formed): www.livingstonrobotics.org

• Team Landroids’ best video collections: http://www.landroids.org/media/video/

• Landroids’ Facebook (storing team photos and updates): http://www.facebook.com/pages/Livingston-NJ/Team-LANDROIDS/154832283876?v=wall

• Landroids MoonBots win blog and list of news releases: http://www.landroids.org/2010/09/03/landroids-won-grand-prize-moonbots-challenge/

• LEGO Mindstorm news release on Landroids’ Denmark trip: http://mindstorms.lego.com/en-us/News/ReadMore/Default.aspx?id=226434

 

 

 

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