BEAVERCREEK — After being a semifinalist for the FIRST LEGO Global Innovation Award last year, members of the QuickBots team had one plan for this year.
A repeat appearance.
“It was kind of a goal for us to make it back,” said Joshua Han, 13, one of three Beavercreek residents on the team.
The QuickBots — based in Beavercreek — are again among the top 20 teams from around the world and will compete for the Global Innovation Award in June.
The Global Innovation Award showcases the real-world, innovative solutions created by FIRST LEGO League teams from around the world as part of their annually themed challenge. FIRST LEGO League combines robotics, core values, and the theme-based challenge to encourage STEM careers.
The QuickBots innovative solution to this year’s theme — City Shapers — is Polar Play, a solar-reflective, color-changing coating that prevents injuries. Team members discovered that many playground injuries are due to play equipment becoming too hot for kids to safely use, even when air temperatures are mild. The team wanted to make sure playgrounds are fun and safe places for communities, so it developed the paintable coating, while using last year’s semifinals as a reference for maximizing its chances to win.
“After seeing the top three (last year) at GIA, we based our project kind of on how theirs were,” said Beavercreek resident Clare Han, 14. “It was an effective solution but it’s also really simple.”
Simple, but effective.
“We really did want our solution to be really simple,” said Sam Geelhood, 14, another Beavercreek resident. “Another thing that we wanted to do is make our solution have a big social impact. Something that people can relate to. (Judges) want to see your projects do well.”
Due to the coronavirus, the competition will take place virtually this year, from Wednesday-Friday, June 24-26, and concludes with a live broadcast Saturday, June 27. Teams from the United States, Netherlands (Holland), Israel, Spain, Brazil, and Denmark will compete for the $20,000 prize, awarded to the first-place team. The top three teams are recognized.
The team members like their chances this year.
“I think we’re coming in pretty confidently,” Geelhood said. “We changed how we made our project because we had the goal of coming back. The virtual part will be challenging but that’s a challenge everybody has to overcome.”
Coach Amy Han likes how the team has prepared.
“Our kids have worked really, really hard,” she said. “They’ve done their research. They’ve done their testing. Being one of the semifinalists is a huge accomplishment.”
Even if they don’t finish among the top three, the QuickBots have already made Ohio history. Han said the team is the first from Ohio to make it to the top 20 twice.
“I think it’s really great and that makes it more special that we were able to get in,” Clare Han said.
Joshua Han said it was a “great honor” to make it twice in a row.
“And I feel like it makes Ohio special,” he said.
This is the team’s third year in existence and all seven current members participated last year as well. Han, and assistant coach Ellen Merkel, have been with the team the last two years. Neither has a robotics or engineering background, so the team members really are running the show.
“They’re supposed to be learning,” Amy Han said. “They’re supposed to be doing all the work. I think in the long run it is better for the kids. It helps them develop their thinking. We just kind of talk through things.”
This season the team received the Champion’s Award and the top robot score at the Springboro regional and the district competition at Wright State University. At the state championship QuickBots received the Project Award and was one of four from Ohio nominated to compete for the Global Innovation Award. There were more than 500 teams from Ohio and more than 39,000 teams competing worldwide.
Other team members are Joseph Merkel, 15, and Tessa Merkel, 13, from Centerville; Matthew Lee, 12, from Springboro; and Andrew Forsthoefel, 14, from Liberty Township in Butler County.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.