Brick Breakers Shake Up Lego League Competition

Six third-grade students from Fugman Elementary School in Fresno, who dubbed themselves ‘Brick Breakers,’ competed in the First Lego League (FLL) Competition on Dec. 10.

What does this have to do with California Almonds?

The FLL is a program launched by inventor/entrepreneur Dean Kamen (inventor of the Segway scooter). Each year, the challenge is different, but the goal is the same: to educate children about science careers. This year’s challenge focused on food safety. As a team, Brick Breakers chose to research Salmonella on almonds. As part of the project, the team was tasked to learn about the food’s journey from ground to table, identify where the food can become contaminated, and create an innovative solution that prevents or solves the problem.

On Sept. 28, the students and their parents visited California State University — Fresno. The students were treated to an afternoon of almond orchard demonstrations. After spending an afternoon learning about the process almonds undergo from farm to fork, the team programmed a robot to perform an autonomous task related to the challenge (food safety) on a playing field. Based on the field visit, the students then wrote a complete skit discussing the California Almond industry, its challenges and their proposed solution to eliminate Salmonella in almonds: Using tree shakers that catch the almonds, sweep the nuts onto a conveyor belt, and dispense the almonds into clean hoppers, which would then be transported to a processing plant. “We are hoping this new method will save the California Almond industry millions of dollars,” said team member Adam.