Reinventing the game of dodgeball April 16 for outer space led a local group of students from Saint Louis School to advance to the semifinals at the ninth annual First Lego LeagueGlobal Innovation Award on June 30 through July 2.
First Lego League announced that a team of fourth and fifth graders, the Eight Magneteers, has been selected from more than 40,000 teams worldwide as one of 20 semifinalists advancing.
Working together, the team created Magnetic Dodgeball, a fast-paced game that uses the properties of magnets and microgravity in space to improve astronaut fitness, flexibility and mental focus. The team came up with the game after discovering astronauts on the International Space Station must exercise for hours on stationary machines — exercise routines which these students found boring.
“The idea was totally student-led,” said head coach Brett Mancini. “When they first proposed the idea to me, I thought it was their way of having an excuse to throw things at each other in space, but they came up with a solution that addressed many different issues. We all ended up loving the idea.”
To test their solution, the team consulted with two doctors from Mayo Clinic’s Section of Aerospace Medicine within the Division of Preventive, Occupational and Aerospace Medicine on the Rochester, Minnesota campus. Robert Haddon worked at NASA with the ISS astronaut crews and Michael Harrison, an Aerospace Medicine Fellow and researcher, reviewed the project and validated the game would be safe and the magnets were not strong enough to endanger the ship’s equipment.
“I was very impressed with the magnetic idea when I first heard it,” said Harrison. “It is a simple and very effective way to combat the effects of microgravity.”
“This is magnificent! Well done,” said Haddon. “Tell the kids that it is perfectly sensible that any of them can wind up going to travel in space given the right ideas and setting goals early.”
Saint Louis School, a Catholic elementary school in the village of Pittsford, has been participating in First Lego League since 2011 and had two teams compete in First Lego events this year.
“I am so proud of our students and our Lego teams,” said Principal Fran Barr. “The students really showcase all that we value at our school: Innovation, creativity and showing great compassion and kindness to others.”
The First Lego League Global Innovation Award is designed to encourage and assist teams with further development of their ideas for solving global issues. At the three-day event, the team will collaborate with other student innovators, learn to pitch their solution to investors and present their idea to a panel of experts. The top three solutions at the event will receive cash awards to further develop their prototype in the hope it may eventually go to space.
The Eight Magneteers have been busy since receiving the nomination — starting the process to apply for a patent and planning a prototype of the Magnetic Dodgeball gear. To offset the team’s costs, the parents have created a GoFundMe site at gofundme.com/the-eight-magneteers.
The Global Innovation Award is sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton, Collins Aerospace, John Deere, Lego Education, Qualcomm Inc. and XPRIZE and in collaboration with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.