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Using Legos, four young builders from Queens recently engineered their way to a first-place victory.

Peye Wong, Alexis Chen, Jessica Balaram and Courtney Chiu — an all-girls team named RoboGbots — put their smarts to the test during FIRST LEGO® League’s (FLL) New York City Regional Championships on March 18. The girls strategized, designed, built and programed a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology to create innovative solutions to challenges facing today’s scientists.

And they stole the triumph away from more than 80 teams in the city.

“We were very excited and proud of ourselves. It was very unexpected,” said Bayside resident Chiu, 12. “We tried our best, and we never thought we’d get first place. We never expected we could achieve so much.”

The “Food Factor” portion of the challenge calls for teams to explore the topic of food safety and examine the possible points of contamination food encounters — from exposure to insects and creatures to unsterile processing and transportation to unsanitary preparation and storage. Then, the contestants had to find ways to prevent or combat these contaminates.

Wong, 13 from Flushing, Chen, 9 from Fresh Meadows, Balaram, 13 from Jamaica, and Chiu built a prototype that measures the surface temperature of a carton or container of milk, alerting consumers of possible expiration.

If the temperature of the container is above 41 degrees — the FDA maximum temperature for refrigerating milk — the consumer is given a warning sound, displayed with the accurate temperature, the team said. If the temperature reads between 37 and 41 degrees, the temperature is displayed with a range of how much longer the milk will stay fresh.

“It feels good to know that we could use such a simple product to help us in everyday life,” Balaram said. “It’s unbelievable, considering the fact that we didn’t even know how to build a robot. This was our first time doing anything like this, and we came so far. It feels amazing, and it’s mind-blowing.”

It was a double win for RoboGbots, who said they felt empowered winning first prize in a usually male-dominated competition.

“It showed girl power — that we could do anything if we put our minds to it,” Balaram said.

The team will move on to compete internationally during FLL’s World Championships, which will be held in Florida this May. They said they are also working to turn the prototype into an iPad app device.



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