Nanaimo students win award for innovative mental health project

By Spencer Sterritt
February 9, 2019 - 4:06pm

Island ConnectED teacher Louise Massey and the team who won the Innovative Solution Award.Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

Spencer Sterritt/NanaimoNewsNOW

NANAIMO — What to do when you're up in space and miss your friends and family back home on Earth?

Several students from the Island ConnectED school recently won an award for their answer: growing plants as a substitute for a pet.

They took their answer to the First Lego League regionals this month, a championship which promotes innovating thinking and teamwork with nearly 100 countries participating in their many challenges.

Teacher Louise Massey and her students brought home the Innovative Solution Award for their project growing plants in gelatin, to prevent messy soil from flying all over the delicate equipment of a space station.

“Every team has a different approach and they're all celebrated,” she told NanaimoNewsNOW. “Their competition is more of a celebration. The hope is to inspire young minds to learn, collaborate and solve problems in unique ways.”

The team of five students considered many different options to help promote proper mental health among astronauts in space, such as a program like Siri which would speak in the voice of their loved ones.

It wasn't selected in case the program went rogue and did something terrible, leaving an astronaut with extreme guilty or anguish because their loved one sent the space station into the sun.

The next idea was bringing a robotic pet to space, but it was decided the idea would be too difficult to present.

It was a tough process narrowing down ideas but all the teammates said they enjoyed the teamwork aspect and learning to work with one another.

Linden Diggins, a grade 6 student who's father is actually an engineer, said it was an interesting experience because he's seen his father become frustrated while working with adults on a project.

“It was actually easier because I compared it to the teamwork my dad has to do with others and seeing how frustrated he could get. It was a good thing to compare someone elses troubles to mine and realize this wasn't too bad.”

As befitting the name of the championship, the team also had to complete experiments and challenges with Lego.

They built several machines and programs to do specific tasks, like a Lego car driving across a table and moving a lever to a specific point.

Student Jayden Standing said coding all the machines and being able to tap into everything Lego provides was her favourite part of the experience.

“I like seeing something I did on a computer come to life and have it successfully completely a project. It ran into a few bumps, but it was really fun. I like seeing the progress I made.”

The team and their plant-in-gelatin idea is now nominated for the much larger Global Innovation Award in San Jose where 20 semi-finalist teams will be inducted into the Innovation Ambassadors program.


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