Just the Incredible 6, a FIRST LEGO League team from Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay, won the Global Innovation award at the state meet in December. With their adviser Rob Taylor are members Cecila Pike, Tateum Leclerc, Aaylah Herrera, Brenden Veilleiux, Adria McHugh and Skylar Condon. Submitted photo

JAY — Just the Incredible 6, a FIRST LEGO League team from Spruce Mountain Middle School, came together as a family while facing unexpected challenges as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a recent Zoom meeting, team members shared information and thoughts from seven-plus months of working together.

The team of seventh and eighth grade students won the Global Innovation award at the Maine FIRST LEGO League Championship in December. They were invited to submit their innovation project in March for consideration to the FIRST LEGO League Global Innovation Award presented by Disney.

Team member Adria McHugh noted the team didn’t do as well the previous year.

“We weren’t nice to each other, didn’t work as a team, were more for ourselves,” she said. “This year we came together. Realized it wasn’t going to work if we were treating each other badly. It’s not just ourselves, its’ everybody else too.”

Brenden Veillieux agreed members weren’t close at first, noting it took three meetings to agree on a team name.

“As we got to know each other, it was a lot easier. We understood each other’s ways of communicating. I kind of describe it as ‘we’re a mini-family,'” he said.

“We really did grow together during this time,” member Cecilia Pike said.

Team adviser Rob Taylor said more than 200 teams internationally participated.

“One thing we struggled with was the submission date was March 23. We ended school March 13,” Taylor said.

Districts across the state took emergency measures by closing schools March 16 to classroom learning. It was done in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus and the respiratory disease it causes.

“We had done a whole bunch of work, writing the report,” Taylor said. “We were close to submitting it when school ended. We couldn’t meet so ended up doing a lot of stuff on Google docs, working together online to figure out how to get the final report completed and submitted, which we did.

“It was certainly challenging at the end,” Taylor said.

JJust the Incredible 6, a FIRST LEGO League team from Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay, collaborated with the Western Maine Play Museum and won the Global Innovation award at the state competition in December. From left are members Cecila Pike, Tateum Leclerc, Aaylah Herrera, Brenden Veilleiux, Adria McHugh and Skylar Condon. Submitted photo

The team’s project evolved last fall. The innovation project this year required teams to identify a public space or building in their community and develop a creative solution to a problem that exists there. Members connected with the Western Maine Play Museum, which had opened in August. The students identified the importance of sanitation in a space like the play museum, where children interact with exhibits and each other on a regular basis.

“Years ago, alcohol-based sanitizers were used so much in the primary school students were getting it in their mouths, giving a drunk effect to them,” McHugh said in November while preparing for the Western Maine FIRST LEGO League Qualifier.

The team developed a nonalcoholic sanitizer using tea tree oil.

“We got to go to the high school and actually test the sanitizer out on our hands and on surfaces to see which surfaces it worked better on,” Pike said. “Getting the results of how well it worked was exciting. We tested it on Tateum’s (Leclerc) phone case. It worked better on that than on our hands.”

The team came up with the idea that the sanitizer worked better on less porous surfaces, Veillieux said.

High school science teachers Donna Peare, Ken Baker and Sikwani Dana helped with the testing, Taylor said.

“We were all in agreement when we submitted our report that more testing with bacterial cultures was an important first step. More testing needed to be done to show that it is 100% effective,” Taylor said. “The judges said, ‘Their tea tree oil hand sanitizer appears to be a safer alternative to alcohol-based sanitizers that may cause harm to children.’ Their big suggestion was to generate more data of side by side comparisons with alcohol-based sanitizers. That’s the next step that needs to be done.”

“Last year we didn’t focus on our project. This project, liking it, made us dig deeper into what we were doing,” Leclerc said. “I thought when we went to states (competition) we were going to be done.

“When we got the award I was like, ‘Holy cow! We did amazing!’ It’s exciting that we could work harder on what we were already doing, make progress on everything, explore it more and not throw it all away,” Leclerc said.

Skylar Condon enjoyed going to the museum and being able to see what the sanitizer was being made for.

“I liked being able to collaborate with the people at the play museum and really understand what the museum’s purpose was all about,” she said.

Aaylah Herrera asked a lot of questions when the team visited the museum.

“I got to know their routine. That was pretty informational,” she said.

Spruce Mountain High School students Lily Bailey, Ava Coates and Acacia and Quinn Fournier served as team mentors. Jeff Bailey was an adult mentor.

“They were a very hardworking team. I liked working with them,” Lily said.

“They’re the most hardworking. I felt really proud that they won a big award at states,” Coates said.

The team watched a livestream of the awards presentation April 25.

“It’s very interesting where we’re at with this distance learning, trying to be able to finish this project online,” Taylor said. “It was a real challenge. I think they did a really good job while not being able to work with each other face to face. The kids had to overcome a lot just to get the report finished. Being able to submit it was a real achievement.”


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