Teagan MacLean-Charles, William Maras-Hilling, Andrew Watford, Linden Diggins and Jayden Standing, students at Island ConnectEd K-12, won an award at the regional championship for the First Tech Challenge. (KARL YU/News Bulletin)

Nanaimo students win award for space solutions project

Students wait to see if they will go to California on the strength of their project

Local students are waiting to see if they will go to California on the strength of their project dealing with mental health in space.

The Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools’ Island ConnectEd K-12 Ice Giants team won the Innovative Solution Award for a space-themed project as part of a regional First Lego League championship tournament on Feb. 2 in Victoria. In addition to the project, members also designed and operated a robot built from Lego to navigate a special map. They could be bound for San José for the 2019 Into Orbit Global Innovation event if selected.

The aim of the students’ project was to find a novel solution to a human problem related to going into space and the team chose to promote good mental health for people away for long periods of time. Using the voice of a loved one, similar to Apple’s virtual assistant Siri, was initially considered, but was scrapped after it was deemed creepy. Pets were also considered, but toilet training was deemed an issue.

“We decided that growing a plant in space would be a good way of getting somebody to take care of something, to take their minds off of things like not being able to see their family … but all the dirt and soil would float away, so we grew a bean inside gelatin,” said Linden Diggins, a team member.

“We did look into hydroponics, but we decided growing plants in water would be too messy because water would fry circuitry,” said Teagan MacLean-Charles, another student. “For our project, we pretty much made gelatin from Miracle-Gro and planted beans in it. It was quite successful actually.”

“You don’t have to water the gelatin because it’s already made with water,” said Diggins. “Also, the gelatin would not float away and the bean sort of sticks to it, so it’s useful to go to space.”

MacLean-Charles, Diggins and other teammates said they learned from the experience. William Maras-Hilling said he learned you can grow plants in space. Jayden Standing said she learned teamwork is essential, as the team wouldn’t have gained the accomplishment if they worked individually.

“I learned how to keep things more sanitary than before and that it involves more patience,” said Andrew Watford with a laugh.

Louise Massey, Island ConnectEd coordinator, said they will have to wait until April 17 before finding out if they will go to San José.


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