Lego project to curb Harbour smoking

KINBURN – Four Stonecrest Elementary School students are aiming to curb smoking in Fitzroy Harbour as part of a city shaping project for the First Lego League.

Austin White (Grade 7) and siblings Alexi (Grade 8), Saskia (Grade 5) and Kieve Janoska (Grade 7), under the team name RoboCrew, are representing Stonecrest in the 2019 FIRST LEGO League (FLL).

FLL introduces young students to real-world engineering challenges by building LEGO-based robots to complete tasks on a thematic playing surface. FLL teams, guided by their imaginations and adult coaches, discover exciting career possibilities and, through the process, learn to make positive contributions to society.

The FLL has three parts for teams to take part in on their way to the provincial championship – the robot game, the innovation project and the core values. Teams of up to 10 children, with at least two adult coaches, participate in the challenge by programming an autonomous robot to score points on a themed playing field (Robot Game); developing a solution to a problem they have identified (Project); all guided by the FIRST Core Values. Teams may then attend an official tournament, hosted by FIRST LEGO League partners.

This year’s FLL project theme is City Shaping and is focused on the development, design and planning of cities.

“We had to pick a building in our community, figure out a problem and see if we can fix it,” Alexi told West Carleton Online from the West Carleton Community Complex last week (Nov. 11).

Team RoboCrew chose the Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre. The three siblings live nearby and play there occasionally while Austin lives in Kinburn. The team feels a lot of cigarette smoking happens around the centre.

“It’s not nice,” Alexi said. “A lot of kids play there. We wanted to improve the environment for the kids. People smoke and that’s their choice, just don’t smoke right there.”

Early in September RoboCrew did some research. They researched the City of Ottawa bylaws and fines. They went to the park for some “on-site research.”

“We saw there were no signs at the park,” Alexi said. “And there was no information on the bylaws.”

The crew met with Coun. Eli El-Chantiry and City of Ottawa Bylaw Services’ Allison Sandor to suggest some ideas and get some more information. El-Chantiry confirmed his office has received complaints about the location of smokers at the Fitzroy Harbour Community Centre and that it seems to have a higher number of smokers compared to other West Carleton community centres.

Kieve thought the city’s existing no smoking signs “were boring, and didn’t have bylaw information on them.”

“Our first idea was to build a smoking room but we found out the law doesn’t allow you to have a smoking room on city property,” Austin said.

So RoboCrew came up with some brightly coloured signs with an important message and info on the bylaw and penalties.

When RoboCrew met with El-Chantiry, the councillor was impressed with the signs and liked the idea of using kids to add peer pressure as well as education over enforcement. The tactics are similar to how the city tries to enforce driving laws.

“Eli liked the idea so much, he wants RoboCrew to speak to council and have the signs made professionally,” dad Mark Janoska said.

Team RoboCrew said they have enjoyed the City Shaping element as well.

“We think it’s been fun,” Alexi said. “We like that we might be in the news too.”

Team RoboCrew heads to the regional competition Dec. 1. The event will be held at Algonquin College and that’s where the team will take on the robot challenge. If the team is successful there, the provincial championship takes place in January and February.

For more information on the FIRST LEGO League, click here.