When Glen Ames Senior Public School’s robotics team learned more than 640 Ontario schools had received failing grades on lead tests over a two-year period—including their own—they began thinking about how they could engineer a solution.
The Royal Flush, which automatically runs water periodically to reduce the lead content in it, was the team’s robotic solution.
“Basically, we did some research and we figured out that flushing is the most effective way to get rid of the lead other than replacing the pipes,” Grade 8 student and presentation manager Preston Grinnell said.
The team’s latest invention works like this: a timed arm mechanism triggers an automatic tap device, like the kind you’ll find in a public restroom. That arm has a temperature sensor on it, and makes sure the water runs until standing water has been flushed from the pipes.
“Sitting in these pipes here, it’ll be warmer… if it’s fresher water, logically it’s gonna be colder,” explained Elsa Bienenstock, a Grade 8 builder/operator.
The idea is to attach the Royal Flush to a tap at the end of the water line so that the entire school’s pipe system gets flushed.
“At the start of every morning, it flushes for five minutes because at the start of every morning is where the lead buildup is the most,” explained Arion Harinarain, the team’s Grade 8 project manager.
Through trial and error, the 10-person team dubbed The Walking Lead has been able to reduce the lead content in water from 29 parts per billion to 0.167 parts per billion, a reduction of 99 per cent, according to information technology teacher Luke Martin.
“It’s a great club. They spend anywhere from 10 to 20 hours a week together which is what separates them from the competition, because they’re like a second family,” said Martin.
The invention recently earned the team a first place finish at a First Lego League qualifying tournament at David and Mary Thomson Collegiate Institute in on Nov. 29. The Walking Lead are now headed to a provincial championships on Jan. 13, 2018, at Durham College in Oshawa.
Last year’s Glen Ames robotics team took home second place in the innovative solution category at the 2017 Legoland North America Open Competition.