A student group of competitive robot makers has set its sights on a new battle: crushing food contamination.
The Germantown SAP Droids, a robotics club affiliated with the global First Lego League, created an iPhone app that tells consumers where their food came if they scan a Quick Response (QR) code on the product.
“If you are in a store buying cantaloupes, you scan a code and it lets you know if there is a power plant with shared water within a certain radius of that area,” said Jerry Gerard, whose son is on the team. “It lets you know the ingredients of certain foods and give consumers power.”
A QR code is a two-dimensional bar code consisting of black print against a white background. QR codes have become popular because of their large data storage capacities and easy readability.
Club members created the app as part of a global First Lego League competition with a food safety and sustainability theme. On Saturday, the Droids will battle 75 other teams at a state championship tournament at University Maryland Baltimore College.
According to John Astill, the team’s coach, the other part of the contest involves building and programming a robot to execute a specific task — such as placing groceries on a table, or selecting and transporting fish — in two minutes and 30 seconds. The team hopes to parlay a win at a regional Lego League qualifier on Jan. 15 into sucess at the state tournament.
First Lego League is an international robotics program for youths. Teams of up to 10 children and one adult coach compete in challenges in which they program an autonomous robot to earn points on a themed course. There’s also the research project component to the competition. The idea is to encourage students to go into engineering, science, math and technology field, said Jamie Gurganus, First Lego League operational partner for Maryland.
“I have had students build and design actual prototypes that can be used in our world today,” Gurganus said.
Most of the students on the Germantown Droids attend Roberto Clemente Middle School. Nikola Buro, a sixth grade student at Clemente, said he had been searching for a local First Lego League for a years until the Droids came around.
“I really like it,” Nikola said. “It is a lot of fun. I learned how to build robots and how to program them and teamwork.”