Today’s post was written by Tom Rudwick, Coach of The CyberTigers 4995 from Austin, Texas, USA. The CyberTigers are FIRST® LEGO® League Innovation Ambassadors, and Global Innovation Semi-Finalists from the TRASH TREKSM season. The team invented water soluble 6-pack rings that dissolve when they’re submerged in water, helping animals and the environment alike.

Our team had an amazing TRASH TREK season, and learned many things while developing our water soluble 6-pack rings. The biggest lesson we learned was the value and importance of sharing. While studying the problem of plastic trash in the marine environment, we visited legendary oceanographer Tony Amos, of the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas.

During the visit, our team shared our solution with him. Tony’s response?  The team had inspired him! Wait – what!? A team of 5 sixth-graders had inspired a renowned scientist? Our girls were filled with pride and a sense of the possibility that they could change the world. It was an amazing experience!

Our team also met with and shared their ideas with several other experts in related fields, including Dr. Shell Huang, Lead Polymer Researcher with Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. After each meeting, the kids came away richer from the experience, and they received invaluable feedback to make their Project better.

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The team watching a demonstration at the Booz Allen Hamilton Innovation Center.

During the TRASH TREK season, our team made it all the way to the Global Innovation Celebration as semi-finalists, and were also named as one of two runners-up for the award. It was an amazing experience traveling to Washington, D.C., as a team and interacting with all the great FIRST LEGO League teams that were there. (Shout-out to the A.V.E.N.G.E.R.S. of Russell, Ontario, Canada)! The runner-up status also gave our girls an opportunity to attend their first TED-Ed event in New York and interact with amazing young people from all over the world once again.

We continued to work on our water soluble 6-pack rings while participating in the ANIMAL ALLIESSM season, filing a non-provisional patent application for the team’s invention. With experience behind us, we wanted to share with another team what we had learned about the Project and the value of sharing during the TRASH TREK season. We set a date to have a joint team meeting with rookie Team 23754, the Programming Prototypes.

During the meeting, we spent an entire afternoon sharing Project ideas. We told the team about our experience in FIRST LEGO League, including our success in taking our Project to the Global Innovation Award. When we were a rookie team, we did not understand the importance of, and how to succeed in the Project part of FIRST LEGO League, so, we did our best to communicate what we thought would be required to be successful.

Sharing was a big plus for both of our teams – the Programming Prototypes’ enthusiasm was infectious and inspiring. We continued to answer their questions through the season and went to support them at their Qualifier, where they ended up winning the Innovative Solution award, along with an invitation to the Central Texas Regional Championship!

We also qualified to attend the event, and were thrilled to compete alongside the team. At the event, the Programming Prototypes were awarded once again with the Innovative Solution award, which gave them an opportunity to apply to become semi-finalists and possibly attend the Global Innovation Award, as we had last season.  We look forward to letting them know what to expect, just as the 2015 Global Innovation Award runner-up from our region, the LEGO Lions did for us.

To conclude, I want to thank the CyberTigers – Aden Aberra, Madeline King, Emily Lewis, Natalie Nagy, Natalia Rudwick, Coach Terry King and Coach Tish Rudwick – for our special seasons of learning and sharing.

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The CyberTigers and Team Not the Droids You’re Looking For at the National Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C.