In twelve week, Ram Rambhatla's team "The Monster Maniax" built and programmed a robot, equipped with motors, sensors and various tools.
They studied the problem of bacteria infecting school lunches, consulting with experts at Nestle about food processing. They used their knowledge to design a lunchbox that triggers a "corona discharge" that creates ozone to sterlize the food. They applied for a provisional patent for their design.
Monster Maniax is a bunch of sixth graders. Really smart sixth graders.
Monster Maniax will pit its collective brains against some of the smartest kids in Ohio this weekend when they head to the FIRST Lego League state competition in Dayton. The team earned the trip after successful regional and district competitions.
The Monster Maniax are eight students at in Solon: Rohit Rambhatla, Rishi Narahari, Vikas Jain, Rahul Jagetia, Joseph Feng, Justin Prindle, Pranav Iyer and Sydney Bolomer. FIRST Lego League is a robotics program designed to get students excited in science, technology and problem solving.
Every September, the league releases a challenge based on a real-world scientific issue. This season's topic is food safety, and competing teams must build and program a Lego robot capable of completing obstacle-course-like missions on a food-safety-themed playing field. They must also study an aspect of food safety, identify a problem and solve it with a novel solution, thus the ozone-producing lunchbox.
The teams then take their solutions, developed during the eight to twelve weeks between early September and the first competition, and compete against other teams.
Rambhatla, the coach, is a Solon resident and an engineer at Timken. He said his job is to guide the children, not to give them the answers. It's not always easy.
"This whole thing is their design," he said.
"With kids, if something doesn't work they want to change it completely and start over," he added. "I tell them to change only one thing at a time."
Just as important as coming up with solutions to the challenges is building a cohesive team, which isn't always easy with a group of middle schoolers. Rambhatla said they started team building in the summer and when not working there is lots of basketball and ping pong.
The most important thing for any team is collaborating, sharing ideas and challenging each other.
"You can come up with an idea, but if you don't collaborate and share ideas, they don't go anywhere," Rambhatla said.
It's what they've worked hard for since the summer, when the team and Coach Rambhatla.
Vikas Jain, a team member, said they enjoy the competition for the challenge and the feeling of accomplishment when you acheive a goal.
"It's about finding a goal and then getting to that goal, and then finding another goal," he said. "It's an endless amount of goals."