Problem-solving is no problem for Gizmo Gang

Pure Nebraska
Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 10:57 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 14, 2022 at 11:02 AM CDT
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Omaha, Neb. (KOLN) - A Nebraska 4-H FIRST Lego League team from Omaha earned top honors at the Nebraska State Championship. The team’s idea for improving the transportation of cargo is getting some attention as a solution for reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The Gizmo Gang consists of four students, and they’ve been competing together for the past three years. FIRST Lego League is a program that encourages youth in STEM subjects. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Kids are able to explore these subjects in a competitive, athletic-type environment. We caught up with the Gizmo Gang in Omaha to talk about their achievements. “We compete in four areas,” Westside Middle School 8th grader Aaron Thernes said. “The project, core values, robot design, and robot game. With core values, we explain how we work together as a team. For the robot design, you design, build and program a robot, and then for robot game, that robot does missions on a table autonomously for under 2-and-a-half minutes.” The team earns points in all of those areas, and they’ve been quite successful. After winning at state, they are now preparing for a trip to Houston for the 3-day FIRST World Championship, where they will compete with teams around the world. This is on April 20-23.

In addition to all of this, the Gizmo Gang is getting a lot of attention for one aspect of their competition, and that’s the project area. The “project” presents a problem, and teams must come up with a solution. “The problem we are trying to solve is to reduce the number of trucks on the road, reduce emissions and increase safety on the road, by delivering detergent in bulk,” Westside Rockbrook Elementary 6th grader Henry Thernes said. The gang’s solution is very innovative. “We created a bulk dispenser which would dispense detergent from a 303 gallon tote into a dispenser,” OPS King Science and Technology Middle School student Grace Warta said. “The customer would bring back a refillable jug and then they could refill their jugs. That way, they are not buying a new jug every time, and they are not throwing it away in the landfill.” We are told one tote could be used 40 times, and one tote used 40 times would save 18,360 jugs from entering the landfill, according to the team’s study and research. “It would create a 2 to 3 truck ratio of totes to jugs,” Westside Middle School 8th grader Liam Cronican said. “It would take two trucks of totes to transport the same amount of products it would take for three trucks to transport jugs.”

Again, by using the dispenser the team designed, liquid detergent would not be delivered in disposable bottles. It would be dispensed, much like a soda machine, and this would reduce the amount bottles used, and would thus reduce the amount of trucks needed to transport them. The detergent dispenser is called HAGL, and there’s a reason why. “So HAGL is the first letter of all of our team members. Henry, Aaron, Grace and Liam,” Warta said.

A prototype of the dispenser has already been built. The goal is to perhaps turn all of this into a business. “We have two companies that have agreed to make a pilot test for the dispensers,” Warta said. “Our business plan would involve making our dispenser, and we would lease it to stores for $2,000,” Cronican said.

The Gizmo Gang sees this idea becoming a national business, and even going world-wide. They say, all they need are some investors. For now, they are going to take their solution, and their robotic skills, on the road to the FIRST World Championship. As you might imagine, they are ready for the journey. The team even has a cheer and the last part goes like this: “We think together when we work, play together after work, have fun when we work, and enjoy great team work. Gizmo Gang!” It’s a gang, that certainly has their eye on a brighter future for everyone.

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