Though it may be uncommon to hear kids excitedly discuss city infrastructure and economics, to the Oil City Area Middle School robotics team, it’s part of their hobby and passion.
The team brought home a first-place trophy for most innovative solution from Saturday’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League competition in Johnstown.
The theme of this year’s FIRST Lego League competition was hydro dynamics, in which teams were required to create a solution to a water-related problem.
The team from Oil City’s middle school tackled the problem of Oil City’s aging infrastructure.
“The pipes haven’t been replaced since the town was built,” said Giles Ramsey, 13, a team member who researched the problem through Oil City’s water authority.
The team’s solution was to create a water-bottling plant and recycling center to generate revenue for Oil City.
Logan Bish, 12, helped gather information on the purity of Oil City’s water, which helped the team determine that it was suitable for bottling.
“We really sold our product,” Domenic Denny, 11, said. “It felt like we were on ‘Shark Tank.”‘
Several team members said they were nervous heading into the competition, as the team is in its first year.
“We went there thinking everyone was going to crush us,” Austin Meehan, 12, said.
Robotics coach Evan Basham said his role at the competition was to remain on the sidelines and let his team shine.
“The hardest thing about the competition is that I wasn’t allowed to help,” Basham said. “It was completely hands-off for the coaches.”
The team’s next step is to present its product to City Council in an effort to make the idea a reality.
“We’re hoping to get ideas from them to fund it if they feel it’s a good idea that will bring some revenue to the city,” Basham said.
While the team didn’t score high with the robot programming, they were proud to win first place for the innovative solution category.
“It proved we can actually solve a problem in our community, not just make a robot move,” Meehan said.