Creative innovations, teamwork and, of course, robots.
Those aren’t just the hallmarks of great minds working together. They are the themes of a science and technology competition for kids at which four Prosper students received high scores.
Anna Seibert is the coach of the Prosper Independent Engineers (PIE) team. Her son, Robbie Seibert, is one of the members along with Alex Phillips, Sia Srivastava and Sarah Renshaw.
In the fall, Robbie will be a seventh-grader at Reynolds Middle School, while Sia and Sarah will be in the same grade at Rogers Middle School. Alex, who will be a freshman at Prosper High School, formerly attended Reynolds.
The foursome competed in the First Lego League (FLL) competition, which according to the website firstlegoleague.org is an organization with a focus on STEM that is dedicated to helping kids learn and explore from an early age.
The North Texas FLL qualifier was held in November at the University of Texas at Dallas, where the PIE team came in second place. In January, they competed in the North Texas Regional Championship at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas.
In May, the team learned it had progressed to the quarter-finals of the competition, but ultimately was not selected to advance to the finals.
The international FLL competition is designed for middle school-aged kids. It consisted of three main categories: FLL core values, robotics and a project.
The FLL core values area of the competition is designed to help participants engage with other competitors to foster a friendly atmosphere and show that helping one another reach a common goal is an important part of innovation.
For the robot part of the competition, the PIE team needed to conceive and build a robot that would move through a course while completing missions. They received points for each mission that they completed, so their robot needed to be able to perform several different tasks.
"I think a big challenge we had was all the disagreements," Alex said. "We were figuring out how to solve the challenges on the board, [so] we’d all take rating cards and decide how hard each mission was and then we all talk about what we rated each mission."
The project portion of this year’s competition was about city planning, which required the youths to either create a new invention or to improve on something that was already available.
The PIE team, which has a YouTube channel (youtube.com/channel/UCfumfnidS7Vp8n_IQOfv-dw?view_as=subscriber), decided to create a new app that would assist people with visual impairments to get around in buildings. They called their innovation Pathfinder.
Pathfinder would allow the user to open an app on their phone that would give them either audio commands on where to go or signal them with a vibration through their phone to guide them.
Utilizing their creativity and skill, the PIE team placed in the top 35 of 67,000 teams that participated from 100 different countries. It was one of only two teams from North Texas to be nominated for the Global Innovation Award.
This experience has given the PIE team confidence and allowed them to find their voices as innovators.
"I think we can all agree that we’ve all learned to speak up a lot more," Robbie said.
Their coach, Siebert, said she was proud watching the kids in the competition and speaking in front of adults.
"They knew what they were talking about and had the confidence to not question whether or not they were right," Seibert said."They had the ability to put their thoughts into words and it was really amazing watching them."
The PIE team is currently looking for new members. Those interested in joining may contact Seibert at email@example.com.