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December 13, 2012

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Elementary Students Create Robots For Senior Solutions

Nearly 200 elementary and middle school students will be at the University of Victoria this Saturday, working on ways robotic technology might help seniors overcome daily challenges.

UVic’s Faculties of Education and Engineering are sponsoring the Vancouver Island First LEGO League regional competition for the first time. Students from around the Island will compete after researching, designing and creating robots—using LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT kits—to meet challenges intended to explore how technology might complement or enhance the lives of senior citizens.

Organizer Michael Hammond-Todd, a UVic doctoral student, says teams will create and program their robots to face 10 to 12 different challenges, such as fixing a broken chair and placing it under a table, scanning medications to select the correct one, walking a guide or activity dog, gardening and bowling. They’ll program for two or three challenges at a time, then reprogram to face another set.

“These little challenges are actually quite complex, and represent some of the real challenges seniors face in their daily lives,” says Hammond-Todd.

Another challenge, the “seniors pitstop” is an innovative first-step solution that addresses some of the major issues of concern to older drivers such as glare and good visibility when backing up.

“How fitting that the challenge theme for the first lego league event happening on the UVic campus is ‘Senior Solutions’—solving problems faced by seniors as they age,” says Holly Tuokko, director of UVic’s Centre on Aging, whose research program is looking to find a way to extend the length of time that older drivers can drive safely.

Although created from standard kits, each robot can be built in a different way and teams can take various approaches to tackling the challenges.

More than a dozen teams are expected to participate in UVic’s MacLaurin Building between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. The event, an effort to get more children interested in the STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and math), is open to the public. Qualifying teams move on to a provincial competition.

The Centre on Aging, Science Venture program, and UVic’s mechanical engineering department will also be represented at the event.

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  Media Contacts:

Michael Hammond-Todd (Faculty of Education) at 250-514-5917 or michaelhammondtodd@gmail.com
Tara Sharpe for Mitch Wright (UVic Communications) at 250-721-7636 or ucom@uvic.ca


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