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Forget where you parked? There's an app for that thanks to some Mequon fifth-graders

Students make smartphone app, win regional competition

Donges Bay Middle School students (from left) Seth Amland, Allison Yang, Ben Kittleson, Jackson Rusch, Jake Yasonik and Andrew Wang created a smartphone application to locate lost vehicles.

Donges Bay Middle School students (from left) Seth Amland, Allison Yang, Ben Kittleson, Jackson Rusch, Jake Yasonik and Andrew Wang created a smartphone application to locate lost vehicles. Photo By Kay Amland

Nov. 28, 2012

Mequon - A group of fifth-graders from Donges Bay Elementary have taken problem solving to a whole new level.

The fifth-graders formed Technical Rage, a team that participated in the First Lego League's regional competition called Senior Solutions, on Nov. 18 at Marquette University High School. FLL is a nonprofit organization that promotes science and technical education. Technical Rage is not affiliated with Donges Bay Elementary.

FLL's challenge this year asked teams to solve a problem senior citizens face in their daily lives. Not only did Technical Rage meet the challenge, it won the challenge.

The team, made up of Mequon youth Jake Yasonik, Allison Yang, Andrew Wang, Jackson Rusch, Ben Kittleson and Seth Amland, designed an automatic car finder Android app to help seniors easily find their lost vehicles. The app does not require the driver to set the location of their vehicle once they park as the location sets automatically.

Team advances to state

The fifth-graders advance to the state competition Dec. 8 at Mukwonago High School after receiving the first-place Robot Performance Award and the overall Champion's Award out of 31 registered teams at regionals, Technical Rage coach Jenna Lee said. Mequon resident Weizhong Wang also coaches the team.

FLL is an international robotic program for ages 9 to 14. Teams can have up to 10 children and need one adult coach.

There are nine regional competitions throughout Wisconsin and 230 registered teams. According to FLL's website, firstlegoleague.org, the program is designed to get children excited about science and technology. Coaches don't need technical experience because the children do the work.

The Donges Bay students, who formed a group independent from the school, had to tackle three different facets of the challenge.

"Each year they have a topic put out. This year, with Senior Solutions, the kids needed to develop an idea to help the seniors live independently, to live engaged and to be connected to the society," Lee said.

The three-part challenge includes programming an autonomous robot by using the Lego Mindstorms robot set to score points on a themed playing field, developing a solution to a problem they have identified and following the core values of FLL, such as "we are a team," according to the website.

Starting last January, Lee said the members of Technical Rage started researching problems senior citizens face by going to the Ozaukee County Senior Center. They decided the most common problem was senior citizens forgetting where they put things. The middle-schoolers decided to solve this problem by creating an app to help them locate their cars.

Making something 'real'

"We don't want just an idea, we want to make something real," Lee said. "All of them were interested in developing an app."

Embodying the FLL value of teamwork, the work was divided among the members. One worked on designing an icon and interface for the app. One was a mathematician, who could figure out how to get the cellphone to track the vehicle's speed. Others worked on the coding of the app. Together, as a team, they created the new application.

Now, they are promoting the app through YouTube videos - one will be shared with the senior citizens they worked with, the other is for children to learn the app so they can teach their grandparents how to use it.

"We are very proud of them," Lee said.

To learn more about the app, call Lee at (414) 326-9586 or email technicalrage10@gmail.com.

To download the app, visit play.google.com/store and type in technical rage automatic.

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