By Hayley Fedor
Exceeding all expectations for middle school students, the robotics team at Brandon Academy known as Team Scorpion not only competed in the state competition and received first place for the State Innovation Project Award, but they also created a truly humanitarian innovation along the way.
The theme of the competition this year, called ‘Replay,’ tasked students with making individuals more active, tying in with athletics and sports. Team Scorpion decided to work within the demographic of amputees and discover how to make prosthetics more functional for physical activity.
The team was able to collaborate with a professor at the University of South Florida that specializes in prosthetics, an amputee CrossFit trainer, and the Brandon Academy physical education coach’s father, who is also an amputee.
“They found that there was a ton of different types of prosthetics out there, so that really wasn’t an angle for them to go because it already existed,” said Jessica Wallen, co-coach of Team Scorpion, “but as they looked into it, they started seeing a lot of stuff about sweat and we found some really disgusting videos of amputees pouring the sweat out of their prosthetic … so they started looking into that.”
The team worked with different materials like paper, fabric and elastic to produce their ultimate version of a band to go around the amputated limb that prevents large amounts of sweat from dripping into the prosthetic, which led to the name ‘Drip Lip.’
“I got onto a Facebook group for amputees and was able to get a couple of them to try our Drip Lip, so I think there’s four Drip Lips out in the world right now with people,” said Wallen.
For the competition this year, the state committee slightly adjusted the format as a result of COVID-19, causing the team to be judged on core values, robot design, mission completion and overall project via Zoom.
The nine students on the robotics team gained teamwork skills and learned determination by working together on this prolonged project spanning the length of the school year.
“I learn something new from my kids every day; just their different ideas and the way they approach things and how different that is from the way I approach things,” said Wallen.
Since their success at the state competition, the team has been invited to compete in the FIRST® LEGO® League Virtual Open Invitational Greece 2021, which is an international tournament starting on Thursday, June 24 and concluding on Sunday, June 27.