Sunday, May 17, 2015

Chicagoland #LFLExploring Posts & Clubs navigated air, land and water at yesterday's Inaugural #SheddUAV Aerial Robotics Challenge

It has been two years in the making, but yesterday we hosted the inaugural Aerial Robotics Event with our program partner the John G. Shedd Aquarium. Over 160 Chicagoland #LFLExploring Club & Post youth participants worked to complete three conservation missions at the North Pond Nature Sanctuary on Chicago’s North Side:  
  •  Aerial Photography to Identify EcosystemsUse aerial photography to identify three ecosystems around North Pond.
  • Water SamplingCollect and compare two water samples, one from the dock and one from the center of the pond. Conduct water-quality tests on each. 
  • Surveying Local Bird Populations: Use aerial photographs to count the number of birds around North Pond. Using the bird guides provided, identify the species found and determine whether each is native, non-native, invasive, or migratory. 
This Aerial Robotics Challenge is the result of a partnership between the Shedd Aquarium and Learning For Life’s Aerial Robotics Exploring program. Working in teams of 4 or 5, Explorers designed and built quad copters while mentors inspired and guided the theories and skills of aviation, flying, and application of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) principles. 

Chicagoland #LFLExploring Groups received awards such as:

INNOVATION AWARD  LFL Exploring Post 579 - Illinois Math & Science Academy & Experimental Aircraft Association Local Chapter 579

OBSTACLE COURSE AWARD - LFL Exploring - New Trier H.S. 

TEAMWORK AWARD - Exploring Club Post 221 - Aptakisic District

CREATIVE POSTER AWARD - Exploring Club & Post 116 - Round Lake

MOST MEMORABLE PRESENTATION - Exploring Club  - Beach Park

HELPFUL AWARD - Exploring Posts - ITW & Rauner Academy

Explorers did a great job referencing their notes and troubleshooting with their quad copters, GPS coordinates, propellers, cameras, design floatation's, flying and navigating the obstacle courses, and water sampling.

Here are some quotes from Exploring participants at the Aerial Robotics Event:
"Zip ties beat duck tape." 
"Even if something is perfect on paper, it doesn't always translate." 
"Expose elementary students to STEM, boys and girls learning about robots."

The event was more than just a fun-filled exercise in flying: It served a real-world purpose.
A group of conservation researchers at the Shedd Aquarium is employing these very techniques to evaluate the restoration of North Pond, which was once a sand dune rich in shore vegetation before it was converted into a dumping ground.

UAVs can help researchers learn more about the pond’s water quality and resident species by surveying difficult-to-access areas of an ecosystem and unobtrusively observing elusive or sensitive animals. In addition, UAVs can be an efficient and financially viable scientific tool when researching such a large site.


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Thank you to Mark Hislop, the Shedd Staff and all of the volunteers that have helped us develop this program over the last two years!


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