Tuesday, November 27, 2012
What do Legos, the Lieutenant Governor, and senior citizens have to do with each other?
As it turns out, they have quite a bit in common.
SC Lt. Governor Glenn McConnell, who heads up the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging, has been traveling across South Carolina on fact finding missions to get a better understanding of senior citizen issues and needs and to work on solutions to address those needs.
The Lt. Governor recently received an interesting invitation - - and as it turns out, some helpful insights -- from a special group of elementary school students here in Dorchester County. McConnell accepted the students’ invitation to visit Fort Dorchester Elementary School to get a closer look at what FDES students participating on the FIRST LEGO League Robotics Team, the FDES Gator-Bots have been doing for the league’s 2012 Senior Solutions Challenge.
The FIRST LEGO League is a partnership created in 1998 to encourage students to combine the use of science and technology with problem-solving skills, creative thinking, teamwork, sportsmanship, and a sense of community, Mary Graves, FIRST SC Operational Partner said. This year’s competition theme is senior issues, so participating students, working with adult mentors, use LEGO technologies and educational materials to design, build, and program robots to create a solution to an issue senior citizens might face.
“They research the types of problems seniors can and do face, then they set out to see if they can design a robot to help resolve that problem,” Graves said.
The goal, she said, is for each team to ultimately design and program a robot whose function is to help enable seniors to continue to live as independently as possible.
That’s a goal shared by the Lt. Governor’s Office on Aging, McConnell told the students. Not only do senior citizens prefer to stay in their homes, it is much less expensive for them -- indeed for the state -- to do so than to go to nursing home or assisted living facility, he said.
“What I’ve learned – and I bet you’ve found out the same thing in your research – is that they want to be independent, they want to stay in their homes and not have to go to a facility,” he said. “If we know this, then why wouldn’t we work to achieve just that? So how do we help them stay at home, keep a good quality of life, and stay engaged in the community?”
The answers to some of those questions and issues may very well come from the work the students are doing now, McConnell said.
“This is one of the most innovative things I’ve ever seen,” McConnell said of the FIRST LEGO League program. “I was stunned at the work they have been doing. They’re not only learning the science and technology, they’re also learning how to work together to achieve goals and create solutions. They have open minds and great energy and unique perspectives. We’ll all get tremendous benefits from it.”?