News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 11, 2012

Fifth-grade ‘engineers’ tackle ‘toxic’ cleanup with the help of a little robot

TERRE HAUTE — Toxic waste has spilled on an island, but it’s too dangerous for humans to touch, so fifth graders at Farrington Grove Elementary School must turn to science.

While a small cardboard square is the island and the toxin is actually rice, students in Donna Rockwood’s fifth grade class used a toothbrush, a cell phone motor, a small circular battery and double sided tape to create a robotic cleanup Wednesday.

“They have to design control measures to keep the robot in place to clean up the spill. It is a design process, so they generate ideas and build a prototype and then test it and tell their story. It’s a hands-on experiment and engineer design process,” said Sarah Gaughan, extension associate with Purdue Extension-Vigo County.

Gaughan, along with Krista Farthing, Purdue Extension educator, guided the students on how to assemble their “robot.” Students used just the brush section of a new toothbrush, then used double-sided tape for the motor and battery.

When assembled, the brush vibrates across the cardboard island, pushing rice (the toxin) away from black areas on the island.

“It’s cool,” said Jalen Henderson.

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” said teammate Luka Popoff.

Students were placed into three-member teams to assemble the robot, and then think of ways to keep the robot in a designated cleanup area. Materials to do that included straws, popsicle sticks, small plastic cups, tape and paper clips.

A team comprised of Matthew Haraway, Melissa Chavez and Devin Taylor decided to ring the island with plastic cups, then created a fence with wooden popsicle sticks.

“It’s just the amazing brain right here that came up with this,” Taylor said, pointing to his forehead.

“He’s not as smart as he thinks he is,” retorts teammate Chavez with a smile.

Rockwood said the experiment is ideal for her students.

“It gets them excited about science. I am thrilled to have community involvement, especially with budget cuts to schools, we need things like this,” Rockwood said. “You can tell they really enjoy it, as everyone is on task. No one is asking to go to the bathroom and their heads are bent over concentrating on the project.

“I think this is a confidence builder as well. They feel like they did this,” Rockwood added.

Once containment areas were made, Farthing used a stop watch to time students as the robotic brush was placed on the island. The brush would push rice away from blackened areas on the island. Students had two minutes for the cleanup, but if the “robot” fell over, they could not touch it for three seconds. Also, if it got stuck, they could not touch it for three seconds.

When time was up, she asked students to count the number of small squares in each black area on the island that contained no rice (toxin). Some groups counted more than 70 squares.

Students were then asked how they could improve their containment design and given a few minutes to make the changes. It was then back to the three-minute robot clean up.

Jaelea Coleman, teammate with Henderson and Popoff, said by using rolled Scotch tape and placing it under their containment straws, it prevented the robot from becoming stuck.

“It’s much better,” Coleman said. “It’s fun to do.”

The program was part of the National 4-H Science Day Experiment. The Purdue Extension’s 4-H Youth Development program supplied the materials and associates, who conducted the experiment during three different class hours at Farrington Grove Elementary at 1826 S. Sixth St. in Terre Haute.

Howard Greninger can be reached at 812-231-4204 or

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local & Bistate
Latest News Poll
AP Video
Raw: Thousands Flocking to German Crop Circle Texas Scientists Study Ebola Virus Small Plane Crash in San Diego Parking Lot Dangerous Bacteria Kills One in Florida Fighting Blocks Access to Ukraine Crash Site Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow Raw: Otters Enjoy Water Slides at Japan Zoo Raw: Deadly Landslide Hits Indian Village 3 People Killed, Deputies Wounded in NC Shootout Visitors Feel Part of the Pack at Wolf Preserve Workers Dig for Survivors After India Landslide Raw: 16 Killed in Gaza Market Strike Florida Panther Rebound Upsets Ranchers Southern Accent Reduction Class Cancelled in TN Raw: Smoke, Explosions Fill Gaza Skyline Two Women Narrowly Avoid Being Hit by Train 3Doodler Bring 3-D Printing to Your Hand Today in History for July 31st Russia Counts Cost of New US, EU Sanctions Six PA Cops Indicted for Robbing Drug Dealers
NDN Video
Famous Internet Cats Help Big Cause With Viral Video Snoop Dogg Narrating Animal Footage Is Perfect Tigers Acquire David Price - @TheBuzzeronFOX Russell Brand Slams Sean Hannity Over Gaza Conflict Segment Chapter Two: Composing for a film in retirement Woman's Dive Goes Terribly Wrong Brian Williams Reports on Daughter Allison Williams' 'Peter Pan' Casting News Did Jimmy Fallon Look Up Heidi Klum's Dress? What Drama? Miranda Kerr Poses Topless Plane crashes in San Diego Costco parking lot Justin Bieber Takes To Instagram To Diss Orlando Bloom You Won't Believe the Celeb Cameos in "Sharknado 2" Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -


    March 12, 2010