Remote robotics: Galaxy Girls worked through unusual pandemic year

The Galaxy Girls from Solana Ranch Elementary School recently took fourth place at a FLL qualifying tournament.

The Galaxy Girls, a robotics team of fifth-graders from Solana Ranch Elementary School, competed at their long-awaited FIRST Lego League qualifying tournament on March 13. At the tournament that had been postponed since November due to the pandemic, the girls placed fourth out of 20 teams.

This year’s team members include Emily Cameron, Joanna Kim, Disha Ramachandran, Isla Vijayendran, Audrey Young and Phoebe Young. During the tournament, their robot scored 360 points out of their max potential of 385 points, a 94% capture rate.

The Galaxy Girls started meeting in mid-August 2020 and have spent the last seven months preparing for this season’s challenge, themed “Gamechangers”. During the unusual pandemic year, they met twice a week and had to get creative using Zoom, socially- distanced meetings and even used a staggered tag team approach for working on their robot. They used Minecraft to build their project model so they could work together but remotely as a team.

The Innovation project that the team developed this year is a “Woof and Walk” mobile program that pairs participants with shelter dogs and allows them to “borrow” the dogs for walks in community spaces such as neighborhood parks, Del Mar dog beach and local senior centers. The goal is to motivate people to get out and exercise in open spaces by providing canine companionship. As an added perk, the program could help shelter dogs find a future home.

The girls met with Helen Woodward Animal Center, San Diego Humane Society and local professionals in medicine and exercise as they vetted out their ideas.

Though the Galaxy Girls didn’t take home any trophies this year, the team was well received by the judges and earned high scores during their live-Zoom Q&A sessions which covered robot design, their Innovation research project, and core values. Their spirited responses during the Q&A helped earn Coach Mike Young this year’s Mentor Award

—-Karen Billing