WOODSTOCK – Woodstock Northwood Middle School students’ research could make flying safer worldwide.
Woodstock District 200 Challenge Corps students’ research has been featured in the spring edition of the United Nation’s World Ecology Report, a quarterly research report published in six languages around the world. The students developed their research on how to prevent “bird strikes” – when birds hit airplanes – for the FIRST LEGO League robotics challenge.
The theme of the most recent robotics challenge was “Animal Allies.” Students had to come up with a project that would solve a problem involving how animals and machines interact. They chose to investigate bird strikes even before understanding how deep the issue went, eighth-grade student Erin Bigler said.
“Over the summer when ‘Sully’ came out, a bunch of us had went to see it, but that was pretty much the extent of our knowledge,” she said. “Around here you don’t really hear about that happening. It was kind of like ‘OK. We will look into this. But we will need to have a backup plan.’ ”
When the team started to look into the issue further, students realized the scope of the problem was much larger than they had thought.
“It costs about $2 billion a year just in the United States alone,” eighth-grade student Daniel McCoy said.
In addition to the financial cost, bird strikes harm animals, damage planes and cause crashes and emergency landings.
The students came up with a simple and inexpensive solution to the problem. In the course of their research, they learned that birds have ultraviolet vision and determined that airlines should add red to the nose cone and engine housing as well as red stripes to the belly and under the wings of the plane, so the birds could tell the difference between the plane and the sky.
“A lot of teams made solutions that really couldn’t happen in the real world. It’s just something to have for the competition,” Daniel said. “But our solution is so simple, and it wouldn’t be very hard to do.”
The group has the option to present at an event that the United Nations puts on in New York, Northwood Middle School Challenge Corps faculty adviser Gigi Carlson said. They are considering the opportunity, she said.
“There is real-world application,” Carlson said. “We have had other students years ago that applied to colleges and when they applied they said they had been FLL state qualifiers and those students won small awards for scholarships and that was just for going to state. This year, that bar has been raised that much more.”
Eighth-grader Samantha Keyzer said that for her, it was exciting to know that the team’s work could bring about change.
“We didn’t think we had a say in anything that happened until it was published because we are kids. People don’t normally listen to kids,” she said. “I think its a big shock knowing we can make that much of a difference.”
Contributing students were Eleazar Miranda, Luke Freeman, Emma Bremer, Daniel McCoy, Julian Anguiano, Jason Thurow, Erin Bigler, Samantha Keyzer, Jack Granat and Gerald Nacague.