A group of nine-to-14-year-olds from the Parksville Qualicum Beach area received first place in the recent B.C. Championship Lego Robotics competition, for their innovative solution to Parksville’s issue of discarded hypodermic needles in public spaces.
Natalie Docherty, mother of two of the Juniotech Cyber Raptors members, accompanied them to the competition and said the youngsters on the team worked together to find a problem in the community that they thought was pressing and deserving of a solution.
“I think the kids all go and play at the parks and things and it’s something that concerns them,” she said.
The team came up with a few solutions and ideas, ones they hoping to present to Mayor Ed Mayne, MLA Michelle Stilwell and Dr. Paul Hasselback, the medical health officer for the area.
“The three stakeholders in this political issue, discuss what they come up with and see what their opinions and thoughts are,” Docherty said.
The team tackled the issue of visibility by coming up with a few ways that might make needles easier to spot.
“They worked on a reflective and a neon syringe… so that would be more visible if they were left lying,” Docherty said. “The other one was they worked on a prototype of a syringe that when you press the plunger down, it would give off an LED light… so you can see it in the dark.”
The second portion of their proposal surrounded locating needles. The team discussed the idea of GPS needles, but decided it would be too expensive. They settled on the idea of needles with radio-frequency identification chips.
“Someone who works for the parks could scan areas of concern, like public parks, the daycare centres and it would trigger the RFID tag,” Docherty said. “ They discussed with the judge how technology because it is advancing so quickly that in the future it will be less expensive to use things like GPS and RFID, will [allow you to] scan a lot further distances.”
The team also won first place for robot performance while competing against 17 other teams from B.C. in the preliminary qualifiers on Jan.11. The team will now take both projects to the finals in Victoria, to be judged in early February.