Irrationals make robotics look easy as pi

Posted: Friday, March 28, 2008

The Irrationals, a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League team from Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, are making their mark in the middle school math and science world.

Courtesy Of Dale Staley
Courtesy Of Dale Staley

After placing first at the Juneau Robot Jamboree and second overall in the statewide tournament, the Irrationals were invited to represent Alaska at the High Tech Kids FLL International Open, from May 1 to 3 in Minneapolis, Minn.

"We're all excited to see how other teams designed their robots and to hear about the solutions for energy use from groups all around the world," said Matthew Staley, an Irrationals member. "We are the next generation who will be applying our math and science skills to solving worldwide issues."

This year's FLL Open, which will host more than 60 teams from around the world, asks students to use robotics to understand and create solutions for energy management and conservation. Students will attempt to accomplish missions, such as deploying solar panels on houses, hydro-dams, wind turbines, and planting trees.

"Teams programmed their robots to find sustainable options to meet our planet's growing energy needs in environmentally sound ways," said Kim Andrews, parent of one of the team members. The Irrationals also conducted an energy audit of Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School and presented their findings to government, civic and business groups.

"The Irrationals are continuing to work on their robot missions, and refining their energy project," Andrews said.

On Jan. 12, the Irrationals competed, with their Lego robot, "Howard," against 46 teams at the statewide tournament in Anchorage, winning second place overall and first place in the teamwork and robot design categories.

Andrews said the team's accomplishments in teamwork were commendable.

"For eight kids to work together to have been the number one team has really been one of the most beneficial things they've learned from this," Andrews said. "That really says something."

Andrews also said the Irrationals learned a lot at state and are redesigning - and renaming - their robot.

"They decided that "Howard" needed to be more streamlined," Andrews said. "They received first place for robot design, but they also realized he had a lot of moving parts and was heavy. And he wasn't able to accomplish the missions as fast as they would like to."

The team also renamed "Howard" to "Hailey," so the only girl on the team, Fiona Brown, would have a companion, Andrews said.

The Irrationals will continue to present their energy findings throughout the community with the goal to raise awareness, and according to Andrews, the team needs approximately $9,000 to travel to Minneapolis.

"It's a new program so there's not a lot of fundraising sources for it," Andrews said. "These students will need the financial support of our community to make it to Minneapolis."

So far, the team has presented at the Home Show, to the Workforce Investment Consortium and the Chamber of Commerce. They will present to the Juneau School Board at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Juneau-Douglas High School library and to the Juneau Gastineau Rotary Club on April 24.

Those wishing to contribute to the Irrationals' trip fund may make checks payable to Alaska Engineers Education Foundation (AEEF-JFLL) and send donations to The Irrationals, C/O Murray and Associates, P. C., Attn: Leora Houtary, P.O. Box 21081, Juneau, AK 99802-1081. Donations are tax deductible.

For more information, or if you would like the group to make a presentation to your organization, contact Leora Houtary at 780-6151 or

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or

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