REGION – For one group of area students, Lego products are more than toys.
Indeed, they’re a tool to help solve real world problems.
The Beastly Building Boys are a lego building team made up of eighth graders from Westborough and Southborough.
They have participated in competitions together since 2019, completing challenges through the FIRST Lego League.
Challenge requires innovation
Open to students between the ages of 9 and 14, one such challenge recently tasked the team with solving a problem within the field of animal transport. The boys chose to create a more comfortable carrying tote for injured dogs.
“When they’re injured, they don’t have good, reliable transport,” team member Aryan Shroff told the Community Advocate.
Throughout the project, the boys interviewed local dog walkers, pet owners and animal control workers to find the most effective way to transport an injured animal. They used these conversations to then physically create a proof-of-concept tote.
“Before the tote, there was a large design process,” Aryan said. “We sketched it out on a whiteboard and then created a prototype of it out of cardboard. From that, we saw a lot of flaws, so we thought through all of the problems that a dog would have while being transported while injured.”
Group tackles teamwork
Solving a real-world issue is only one of the three core tenets of the FIRST Lego League’s challenges.
FIRST, known as For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring young people to pursue science and technology. It aims to further inspire young people to become innovators within their community.
Beyond just creating their product with their dog tote challenge, the Beastly Building Boys also had to work well as a cohesive unit during the judging round.
“It’s not really showing your effort or your output because it doesn’t really matter,” said group member Sohan Patil. “[It’s important] to show how well you work together as a team, that’s what most people forget to do.”
Aryan noted that, though the team has had its challenges with teamwork, it has been more effective when working together.
“I feel like, [with] just one of us by ourselves, you really can’t do much,” said Aryan. “For all of us combined, we can accomplish so much more.”
Mentors offer support
The group has had help from mentors.
Their robotics mentor, Bat-Chen Zeliger, played a key role in their success, according to parent mentor and coach Shloka Shroff. The group’s other parent mentor, Anand Thadani, was also instrumental.
This teamwork and problem solving culminated into the robot challenge, the third piece of the larger recent FIRST League challenge.
The boys needed to build a robot out of Lego bricks and program it to work autonomously on a specified course provided.
“Once you have the whole robot built, you have the programming to do different missions around the map,” said Aryan. “One of them might be pushing a truck over a line, or flipping the engine.”
The course pieces, made entirely of Lego bricks, were designed to be moved upon contact with the robot.
The boys were allowed to use separate attachments, or “arms” on the robot, but they were unable to control it while it was in motion on the course.
“You have to create a universal program on that, but we don’t control it,” said Sohan.
Each team was allotted two and a half minutes to complete as many challenges as possible on the board. Though the boys did not win the statewide championship, they did receive accolades for the highest score among every team in the robotics section.
Group members eye leadership roles
As eighth graders, this year was their last year this group’s members could officially compete in the challenge. In the future, members plan to take on mentorship roles for younger students and siblings who also want to participate.
“A lot of them have siblings, a lot of them saw them through that process,” said Shroff. “So, now they’re excited for these guys to mentor their younger brothers.”
Therapy dogs get to work in Northborough
Shrewsbury school operates food pantry for families experiencing food insecurity