Fat-busting water pipe duck helps Skipton Girls’ High School reach finals of international robotics competition
Fatbergs, those slimy lumps of coagulated grease blocking our urban wastewater networks, could soon be consigned to the sewers of history thanks to a fat-blasting robot ‘duck’ devised by a team of inspiring North Yorkshire school students. The team from Skipton Girls’ High School are now taking their innovative robot idea to the national finals of the FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge taking place this Saturday 24 February, having won the Yorkshire regionals in December last year.
The FIRST® LEGO® League is a global science and technology challenge for teams of students aged 9 to 16, to encourage an interest in real world issues and develop the key skills crucial for their future careers. Students face a robot building and programming challenge and have to devise a new technology based on a particular topic. The theme of this year’s challenge is ‘Hydrodynamics’ and seeks to find a product or technology that can improve the way humans use, collect, transport or dispose of water.
Researching the topic, the students from Skipton Girls’ High School Robotics Club worked with Yorkshire Water to understand the costs associated with blocked drains and water pipe leakages and how utility companies are trying to come up with systems that can detect them more efficiently. The solution devised by the students was the AquaDuck, a prototype propeller-powered robot capable of swimming through pipes complete with onboard camera, computer and infra-red beams that can break down fat deposits and detect for leakages. To prove its commercial marketability, the students have also built an AquaDuck website and produced a TV advert.
Rebecca Lofthouse, Teacher of Computer Science at Skipton Girls’ High School, said: “The school really supports robotics, computing and engineering and we set up the Robotics Club with the aim to enrich the curriculum to encourage more girls to break the trend and follow STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subject choices and careers. Reaching the national finals of the FIRST® LEGO® challenge is helping to break down stereotypes – there are few all-girls teams taking part in the challenge – and is opening up career choices that these girls can seriously consider in the future. It is both motivational and inspiring for the girls to continue to have the opportunity to work with these technologies in order to develop problem solving, creativity, computational thinking and programming.”
The AquaDucks team has been sponsored by architectural practice Stephen George + Partners. The practice firmly believes that business has a fundamental role to play in helping the next generation by working hand in hand with schools and higher education establishments. The practice has previously delivered talks to students at Skipton Girls’ High School on subjects such as engineering and BIM (Building Information Modelling) and has offered placements for students to experience what it would be like to work in an architectural practice.
Steve Batson, Director in Stephen George + Partners’ Leeds office, said: “As an Architect and a Trustee of the Institute of Healthcare Engineers & Estate Management (IHHEM) I think it is really important that we work closely with schools and engage with students who are thinking to venture into working within the built environment. Skipton Girls’ High School is amazing; teaching girls Building Information Modelling and computer-programming skills, creating integrated and innovative solutions. We are so proud that we were able to sponsor the AquaDucks team; they are the future innovators of the built environment and Internet of Things Superstars. The students’ ideas and skills have been demonstrably and justifiably awarded winning the Yorkshire regionals of the robotic LEGO challenge and we will be supporting them on the day at the National event in Bristol.”
The UK and Ireland Final of the FIRST® LEGO® League Challenge takes place this Saturday 24 February at the University of West of England (UWE) Exhibition and Conference Centre, Bristol. The International Finals will take place in Houston, Texas later in the year.
Alongside Stephen George + Partners, two local businesses, Guyson Ltd and John Binns & Son (Springs) Ltd, are supporting Skipton Girls’ High School’s journey to the finals in Bristol.