For 10 elementary students in the Ottumwa Community School District, water has been their primary focus since September. Their efforts resulted in qualifying for state at the recent regional FIRST LEGO League (FLL) competition at Indian Hills Community College.
The 10 make up the FLL elementary team, sponsored by the district’s Talented and Gifted Program (TAG). Their mission was to come up with a project and skit around this year’s FLL theme, hydrodynamics.
“At the beginning, we were assigned to think of a problem and a way to solve it individually,” said Talise Plate, a Horace Mann fifth grader. The students then shared their ideas with their team.
“It is a great way to work on presentation skills,” said Camdyn Crouse, an Eisenhower fifth grader. “Then a blind vote was taken on what was best for the team.”
Camdyn’s idea was selected, then modified when a similar project was found. Their idea, develop an app to scan water bottle bar codes to tell the consumer if the water is safe to drink. The app then sends notifications to the user’s phone. A British accent will say either “Watch out” or “You are good.”
Student research included trips to the Ottumwa Water Works and the local Water Pollution Control Facility. They also watched videos about where bottled water comes from. Then they tested 15 different brands of water that can be purchased in the Ottumwa area. Water was tested for a variety of appropriate levels, including alkalinity, hardness, PH, iron, copper, lead, nitrate, and chlorine. They used online resources to determine appropriate levels.
While the Environmental Protection Agency monitors drinking water, the US Food and Drug Administration oversees bottled water. And the two agencies don’t work together, according to the students. Brandon Hemminger, Liberty fifth grader, hopes their project will encourage bottlers to “produce quality water.”
“Updates will be made if a company makes improvements,” said Jayadev Kurmadas, a Liberty fourth grader.
The water that scored the lowest states it is purified and enhanced with minerals “for a pure, fresh taste,” according to Talise. The students found this funny, based on their findings.
FLL competition requires four components, a robot table, a skit, technical (robot design), and core values. The team placed first in Core Values. The five-minute skit features Dr. Pollution, Mr. Impurity, police, media, and others as they share water facts, including:
• 1/3 of bottle water sold contains high levels of chemical contaminates
• 18% of bottlers don’t disclose where their water comes from
• 40% use straight tap water
• the average American drinks an average of 30 gallons of bottled water per year
They will use the judge’s scores to continue to work on and improve their competition components. The state FLL competition is set for January 13 at Iowa State University. The team will compete against approximately 60 other teams from around Iowa.
Students learn a lot through the entire process. “The FLL experience is mind-blowing,” said Brandon. “It is full of fun and is challenging.”
“I learned presentation skills and being outspoken,” said Camdyn.
“I learned a lot about Legos and they are really hard to do,” said Talise.
Team members include: Jayadev Kurmadas, Lydia Schmidt, Brandon Hemminger, Talise Plate, Veni Kotev, Kate Pagorek, Camdyn Crouse, Carlos Jimenez, Isabel Fisher, and Mia Bishop. The team is coached by Breanna Hinmon, an Ottumwa K-5 TAG teacher, and high school students Tyler Brown and Josie Young.
What’s the best water? Check out their website and app prototype for results!