Westbury’s Park Avenue School Techno Dragons pose after winning first place for their Innovation Project at a recent FIRST LEGO League qualifying tournament. (Courtesy of the Techno Dragons)

Westbury’s Techno Dragons Win Big For Innovative App

The fourth- and fifth-graders of Park Avenue School’s Techno Dragons have been working hard this year to get their FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics and engineering skills up to snuff, and that work has paid off in a big way.

In February, the Techno Dragons won first place for their Innovation Project at an FLL qualifying tournament at Huntington High School, where they faced off with other student teams and showed off their award-winning birdwatching app to the judges. Their next stop is the FLL Long Island Championship at Hicksville High School in March, representing their school district as well as Park Avenue School.

In an interview for Nassau Illustrated News, team members Denis, Denia, Steven, Tristan, Dayana, Aisha, Adriel, Cristofer, Emily, and Cattleya joined with Park Avenue educator and head coach Milagros Santiago and vice principal Nicole Christensen on a video call to talk about their successes, their challenges, and the most important parts of being on a team.
Dayana, fourth-grade, explained, “For our innovation project, we made an app, and used technology to make birdwatching more fun. It’s a digital scavenger hunt using augmented reality, [including] rocks we painted with QR codes, so when you scan the code, you get a photo and a video all about the bird that’s on the rock.”

Ms. Santiago added, “The students were challenged this year to create an Innovation Project using technology and the arts in order to get other students interested in a hobby that they loved. After going back and forth for a while, one of the students, Emily, suggested birdwatching, and the other students hadn’t heard of that hobby, so they decided to select that one.”

“The students wanted to bring birdwatching into the 21st century. They surveyed the fourth- and fifth-grade students in the school, and we learned that the majority of students didn’t know about birdwatching, so they were challenged to figure out a way to get them into birdwatching and make it feel less boring. They came up with the digital scavenger hunt as a way to ‘game-ify’ it, using two different apps to create their own app, and we will be presenting it in the spring at Eisenhower Park. We’ll be installing all our signs and stones around Salisbury Lake, so when people walk around the lake they can scan and hear the students’ original essays, see 3D models, and augmented reality that pops up through the app that we used.”

Tristan, fourth-grade, commented, “Trying to make it more fun [was a challenge]. And while they’re birdwatching, people have to look around for certain details.”

So, to make the activity more fun, “If you don’t see the bird, you can try to make one,” explained Denia, fourth-grade.

For example, said Cristofer, fifth-grade, “They can do a fun activity like act like the bird and take a photo or a video of it.”

Adriel explained that their recent competition consisted of multiple parts, including presentations for the judges (such as their Innovation Project) and special missions performed with the robot the team built.

Ms. Christensen noted, “It is an in-school team that meets outside of school, and they actually only meet twice a week for one hour. As Adriel talked about, they have to code and complete missions on the board for one component, and they also had to do the Innovation Component, which is the second component, and the third component, which is instilled in all of this: the Core Values component. Within such a short amount of time that they have had to practice, it truly shows the hard work that went in both inside and out of school on their own.”

She went on, “They’re being a little bit modest: when you hear them present to the judges, and hear the work of their fabulous coaches, it really speaks to them working hard in school and out of school and taking the time to ensure that their lines are memorized. They are eight, nine, and ten years old, and to have your lines really down pat is truly commendable. The team is composed of students from all different types of classes. It’s nice to have such a diverse team [of four boys and six girls] who work together to make the world a better place with the great ideas that they have.”

Ms. Santiago added, “For the table missions [at FLL competitions], they also have to explain in a two-and-a-half minute presentation why they made their robots that way, how they chose the attachments and so on, and it’s amazing that they were able to accomplish so much, and we’re all really, really proud of them.”
Regarding the experience as a whole, Emily, fifth-grade, said, “What I like about being on the team is I can work together with my friends. I love being with my friends. Who doesn’t want to play around with your friends?”

Cristofer, fifth-grade, commented, “Being on this team, I can make new friends and learn things while having fun.”

Cattleya, fifth-grade, said, “I like being on this team because we’re very cooperative, and we’re always good together.”

Looking ahead to the Long Island Championship and beyond, Aisha, fifth-grade, commented, “I was thinking we could change the robot and add some new attachments so that it could do other missions and get more points.”

Emily said, “I’m looking forward to what new missions we’re going to have to do.”

Denia commented, “I want to work hard and get better at measuring the lines and how to use the robot.”

Steven, fourth-grade, also noted, “I’m really nervous about the next competition. What if something goes wrong? What if the attachments break, or the robot turns off? That actually happened during the competition during a mission; the robot turned off.”

But whatever happens, the students agreed, they’ll face it as a team.

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