geekStarter Teams Updates – January 2019

Energized from the winter break, geekStarter high school and middle school teams are excited to be back working on their projects. Here are some recent updates they sent us.

  • Father Patrick Mercredi High School: RSports Robotics Group – Fort McMurray

The team meets twice during weekdays and on Saturdays, and is working on several projects using robotics to solve real-world problems:

Team members working on the theatre props

  1. Using robotics to animate stage props for a local theater production – The team constructed animated toys and an expandable cake for a local production of Mary Poppins. The reviews were fantastic!

    FMCHS team members had an awesome experience animating Mary Poppins toy box

  2. Using drones to create 3D images from above for media and emergency services – The team has been training and experimenting on three different drone platforms, and is figuring out how to use the auto-track mode to obtain better quality images.  

    Working on the drone project

  3. A bear robot decoy to train protection dogs at oil sand sites – Coding for this project is being finalized and the robot is ready for foam and bear cape. The team plans to finish this robot in the next couple of weeks.

    The bear robot decoy is almost complete

  4. Using underwater drones to monitor invasive species in waterways – The team learned to operate their ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) and map its surroundings in a staged pool environment. They continue to practice and prepare for the spring deployment in local waterways, waiting for the spring thaw or an ice dive, pending a safety diver.

    FMCHS team members practicing with the ROV

  5. Building a football tackle robot to reduce player injury and collect data to inform coaching – The power system for this 300+lbs robot proved to be more challenging than expected. The team had to design a higher amperage system and purchase necessary electrical components.
  • Lethbridge High School iGEM – Lethbridge

The team has recently started recruitment for the 2019 iGEM season. Advisors have been visiting all the local high schools drumming up interest. Two info/recruitment sessions were held on Jan 14 and 17, which were attended by over 30 students and parents. Parents were invited to participate in a hands-on activity (mini-preps) – It was a huge success! New team members will be chosen by Feb 1 and the first meeting of the newly formed Lethbridge HS iGEM team will take place on on Feb 4.

Sydnee Calhoun, one of the high school team advisors, gave a talk on iGEM to the Lethbridge Rotary Club Downtown chapter on Jan 14.

The team is excited and getting ready to host the wet lab skills workshop for the Alberta synthetic biology teams on March 2 and 3!

This year will be a challenge for the team, as the whole science department will be moving to the brand new science complex on University of Lethbridge campus. This will probably disrupt some of their experiments but with good planning and a positive attitude the team should come out the other side damage free!

  • United Robotics of Lacombe – Lacombe Composite HS – Lacombe

The team is building a robotic wolf dog that scares away animals/intruders by moving/barking/flashing lights after being detected by an IR fence.

They have been working every Thursday up to the end of December building a working frame of the robot. The team is excited to report that they were able to build a very sturdy frame and their robot is moving! Next challenges will be figuring out how the IR fence detection system will communicate with the robot to activate, and how to send data to a cell phone. The team plans to work together with their mentors and tackle some of these challenges at their next school workshop in February.

They also met with the local farmers and prospective users of their robot to provide updates and get their insights and feedback.

  • Notre Dame Collegiate Synthetic Biology – High River

    Notre Dame team with their mentor Emily Hicks at FREDsense Technologies lab

Students from Notre Dame working in the FREDsense Technologies lab

The NDC Synthetic Biology team has many new members this year, many of them in grade 7! They have been working on continuing their fatberg breakdown project that the team took to iGEM in 2018. This project involves using a bacteria engineered to produce an esterase enzyme to break down triglycerides, which are a main ingredient in fatty obstructions in wastewater systems. The team showcased this project for students’ family members one evening in November, where they also tried out painting with bacteria using a kit from Amino Labs. They also hosted a Girl Guides night in November where some team members taught some elementary school students about synthetic biology and led them in painting with bacteria.

Some of the new NDC team members are as young as grade 7

In order to test their bacteria for the fatberg project, the team has researched more ways of testing for lipids and lipid breakdown. They recently visited their mentors from FREDsense at their lab in order to do some of this testing, as well as to give the new team members experience with some lab protocols, and to brainstorm possible next projects. At the moment the team is not sure how much further they can take the current fatberg project based on some models that suggest large amounts of bacteria may be needed to breakdown relatively small amounts of lipids in the fatberg. However, they will for sure pursue that project through their collaboration with Amino Labs to try to produce an Amino kit based on their esterase enzyme. In the meantime they are exploring ideas spanning topics such as producing biofuel and using bacteria to help clean up pollution, making sure their new team members are comfortable with lab protocols, and looking forward to the wet lab in March!

  • Robots by Olots – Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy – Canmore

    OLS mentors and team members

SPAM OLOTS (Sustainable Plastic Autonomous Machine of Our Lady of the Snows) is the team’s solution for sorting mixed bales of plastic. Plastic recycling is a commonly known environmental issue that impacts us globally, so the team has been working on a way to encourage people to properly clean and sort their recycling through education and the use of technology. Using image recognition programming, they are working on building a robot that can successfully identify and sort type 2 plastic, which will in turn create profit locally, rather than accumulate further plastic waste.

Learning hands-on: OLS team members at school workshop on Jan 26

The team has been meeting weekly at school, brainstorming, learning programming, developing their pitch through their new website and spending time on outreach. On Saturday, January 26, they held a school workshop with their mentor Eiden Yoshida, where they focused on using python to identify type 2 plastic.

OLS team members at the recent school workshop on Jan 26

The team is meeting weekly after school and continues to build their programming skills to bring a viable prototype forward to the public.

  • Patriots Robotics – Lester B Pearson High School – Calgary

Within the goal of building a robotics platform to assist with forest fire management, the team has modified the parameters of their initial project to make their objectives more realistic. For the duration of this season they decided to focus on the the electronics and programming of their fire sensing robot. They will be utilizing an Arduino to prototype this system and the team has begun to research which Arduino board they will use as well as a host of compatible sensors (temperature, flame sensor, Humidity, barometer, GPS, and GMS cellular). Once the hardware portion is complete, the team will begin coding the board to communicate with the sensors and appropriate parsing of data. Finally, they will develop a communication protocol for GMS cellular communication to remotely transmit the data.

The team is re-evaluating their plans and are starting to realize that manufacturing a robotic chassis capable of navigating in the terrain may be a too ambitious goal for this year and they will probably be able to pursue it only next year.

  • Ted Harrison School: Design Thinking Team – Calgary

The team’s objective is to create a robot that picks up litter in large areas after big events. It can help clean the environment and reduce human labour. They plan to target event planners or urban planners.

The team has begun working on an overall design for the garbage collecting robot. This process has taken them from coming up with a basic design into thinking about some of the specific features that they feel are needed for the robot.

Students from Ted Harrison School team having fun learning robotics

The team is working on a survey to send to different organizations to gather feedback on their solution to the garbage problem. Their goal is to send the survey to a variety of groups including municipalities, event organizers and the general public to learn about the viability of the project and what kind of features and functions potential customers would like to see in this type of robot.

  • Queen Elizabeth HS Robotics – Edmonton