2021 FIRST Lego League Team
Introducing “The Ballistic Blobfish”
The competition is divided into 4 categories: Core Values, Robot Design, Robot Game, and Innovation Project. The Ballistic Blobfish had the opportunity to win or lose points in all 4 categories.
A team of judges scored The Ballistic Blobfish on their adherence to FLL’s core values, their robot design, and their Innovation Project.
FLL 2021-2022 Theme
This year’s theme was CARGO CONNECT. Teams were challenged to design a robot capable of delivering cargo to different forms of transportation or target locations around a predesigned course.
The team programs their bot to activate mission models around the field that represent aspects of transportation safety, efficiency, connection, and access.
The Innovation Project
The Blobfish’s Innovation Project had to fit within the Cargo Connect theme. The team spent weeks researching various ideas. They settled on a brilliant idea they called, BlobTech. The team wrote a skit explaining their project and acted it out for the FLL judges.
BlobTech is a system of tools that, when installed in the vehicles of First Responders, can identify leaking or exposed materials from a safe distance. This is important because, for example, first responders can’t always identify what the tractor-trailer was hauling. The wrecked trailer could be filled with harmless teddy bears, or it could be something that poses an immediate danger to anyone in the area. First Responders could be exposing themselves to poisonous or explosive gases, corrosive fluids, biological substances, or any number of harmful chemicals.
BlobTech uses off-the-shelf tech and already in place transportation protocols to quickly identify cargos. BlobTech does this via a Blackbox which wirelessly transmits the manifest in the event of an accident. The BlobTech receiver in the First Responders vehicle receives this information. First Responders are then presented with a list on their screen of all the materials on board and their authorized procedures for safe handling, fire extinguishing, evacuation requirements, first aid, etc. Currently, these procedures are maintained in a standardized industry publication called, the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG). This method of identification is slow and doesn’t speak to cases when the cargo is unknown. BlobTech addresses both issues.
Innovation Project Research
The Blowfish interviewed several specialists in the fields of transportation and safety before and during the development of BlobTech.
Chris Lyall, On Road Supervisor for UPS, gave the Blobfish a tour of a UPS distribution center and discussed the challenges facing the shipping industry.
We also met with Phil Hunt, Transportation Officer at Holston Army Ammunition Plant. What we learned during this interview laid the groundwork for what our project was to become. Phil gave us a copy of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) and told the team about the significance of the triangular plaques attached to tractor-trailers. The placards indicate what hazardous materials are on board. However, First Responders are left just to guess what’s onboard if the placards are obscured due to smoke, fire, or other visibility issue.
The team interviewed Captain Ava Forbes of Kingsport Fire Department Engine 3. Her insight was useful in determining the current standards for handling vehicle accidents involving unknown cargos.
One of the team members found an article on fireengineering.com outlining the limitations of the current Emergency Response Guidebook. We were able to secure a Zoom interview with the article’s author, Vyto Babrauskas, President of Fire Science and Technology, Inc.
Model City Qualifier
The Model City Qualifier Tournament was held at John Sevier Middle School. We placed 3rd overall! And we won 2nd place in the Innovation Project category!! The team’s success at this competition secured for us a spot at the state competition in Cookville.
The state competition was held on the campus of Tennessee Tech University in Cookeville, Tennessee. The presentation portion was judged remotely but this didn’t slow the Blobfish down. They adjusted to the format and nailed the presentation!