In early January, the Mirror Lake Elementary Robotics Ultron 1841 hosted its first annual robotics competition. The eight 4th and 5th– graders on the team competed with twenty-three other Broward County elementary schools and won its third straight STEM Research Project title. This year the STEM Project had to be science theme-based that included the community.
The ambitious Mirror Lake students decided to create a robot that would grow local vegetables to help feed Plantation’s homeless and help disabled individuals stay healthy.
“Robotics teaches the students the essential keys of teamwork,” explained Coach Debra DeBruyne, noting competitions are scored via a VEX IQ game called Squared Away. “They must work together to maximize the number of points they score.”
To involve the community, the students decided to reach out to Officer Courtney Fish. The Plantation police officer leads the city’s homeless outreach unit to provide background on the prevalence of the homeless situation in Plantation. The students decided they wanted to help Plantation’s homeless by collecting much-needed items at their robotics competition.
The students researched similar robots via the internet and even produced a sketch of how their project could be developed. The robot would be able to weed, water, fertilize garden land, and be operated via solar panels.
“We are trying to build a garden to help the disabled. We were inspired because 38% of our students have disabilities and we are always trying to help find ways to help. We also want to feed the homeless. Jayla and her mom always give a sandwich to a homeless man on their way to school every single day,” said 5th-grade team member David Beltran.
These determined students also interviewed Plantation City Council President Nick Sortal about his thoughts on their project.
“Seeing children trying to help make our city better is as good as it gets,” expressed Sortal. “Talking to them put a big smile on my face.”
At the end of the event, Robotics Ultron 1841 collected enough items to fill eight large boxes to give to the dedicated deputy.
DeBruyne, who has been at Mirror Lake for the past 16 years, says that Mirror Lake Principal Marlen Veliz plays an essential role in the camaraderie and atmosphere at the school. “Ms. Veliz is such an incredible leader that she makes us feel that we can accomplish anything,” DeBruyne said. “She makes us feel so proud to be part of the Mirror Lake family. It takes great leaders to accomplish such success.”