The West Windsor-based “Dream Squad” robotics team won the First Lego League (FLL) North New Jersey Regional Championships and a place in the FLL’s World Competition in Houston this April.
Formed by the West Windsor-Plainsboro Service Unit of Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey (GSCSNJ), the “Dream Squad” comprises six middle school girl scout cadettes and childhood best friends: Samyuktha Raja, Lasya Raini, Venuthika Venkatesan, Navya Jha, Saumyaa Pandey, and Kavya Senthil.
Since its inception in 2021, the “Dream Squad” has competed in the FIRST LEGO League Challenge, in which students grades 4-8 engage in “innovation projects” that require them to program a LEGO robot that solves real-world problems. This school year (2022-23) is the first time they are competing in-person.
“It was such a great experience to be the champions,” Venuthika said. “We all learned a lot, not just on our project, but how to create and lead a strong team. We were also fascinated with the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) issues we tackled hands-on.”
For their innovation project, the “Dream Squad” ideated, designed, and built a LEGO model of an airborne wind energy (AWE) kite turbine. Through this model, the “Dream Squad” aims to solve financial and technological problems concerning conventional wind turbines in developing countries.
“With more than 3 billion people in the world that are energy-insecure, our kite turbine is an important innovation that provides developing countries with a cheaper alternative to wind turbines,” Samyuktha said.
After receiving feedback from AWE experts and revising their model many times, the “Dream Squad” plans on sending its prototype to the United Nations.
In addition to providing strong alternative sources of renewable energy, the “Dream Squad” also demonstrated strong team spirit and sportsmanship. With pink, purple, and blue nail paint, hair extensions, and Jumanji body art, the team won in style, and even programmed their robot to play their favorite song, “Sunroof” by Nicky Youre, to cheer on other teams.
“Through all of our 16-hour weekends, we blast the song ‘Sunroof’ as we program,” Saumyaa said. “The song is very special to us, and it was such a joy to help other teams.”
For the World Competition on April 19, the team plans to improve their prototype’s durability and expand its impact globally – all while wearing hearts on their cheeks to spread love to their competitors and matching “Dream Squad” jackets.
“We’re so excited to meet people from all around the world with a shared love for robotics,” Saumyaa said. “Seeing other people’s innovations is so inspiring to us, and fuels us to keep working harder to solve the world’s problems.”
The team will be competing against teams from over 50 countries from all over the world and other championship teams from other states. They were the only team – among 78 teams – from the North New Jersey regional championship to get the unique invitation.
While the “Dream Squad” members are driven by their friends and competitors to continue programming, the team’s coaches are inspired by the members’ dedication and work ethic.
“Mentoring is a two-way project: as much as the kids have learned from us, we have also learned a lot from them as we enjoy their successes and learn from their mistakes,” coach Mangani Venkatesan said.
Learn more on the Dream Squad’s website at https://dreamsquadrobotics.weebly.com/