Local Students Illuminate Habitat Homes

Local Students Illuminate Habitat Homes

One of the beautiful things about Habitat’s work in Milwaukee is the myriad of ways individuals get involved. From swinging hammers on the build site, to shopping at our ReStores, to making a gift, and the list goes on. “Bringing people together” is so core to the work that we do, it’s written into our mission statement. Recently, a team of Sussex middle school students came up with a creative way to further that mission, while reducing energy consumption.

The Cyber Turtles are a FIRST® LEGO® League robotics team made up of 5th-8th grade students from Sussex, WI. FIRST LEGO League is an accessible, guided, global robotics competition, helping students and coaches to build a better future together. The program is built around theme-based challenges to engage children in research, problem-solving, coding, and engineering.

Each year, students are given a problem to solve. This year’s challenge is “How can we improve the energy journey?” In addition to developing robots to complete tasks related to this challenge, the team focused on how to tackle the issue of wasted energy and its impact on the electrical grid. As part of this challenge the team set a goal to collect enough LED – energy saving – light bulbs for all of Milwaukee Habitat’s 2023 homes.

The team’s advisor, Kathy Betters, says, “One of the top ways [consumers] can reduce stress on the electrical grid is to use LED light bulbs.”

In addition to reducing energy consumption, Betters says, these light bulbs ultimately lower energy bills – improving overall affordability for residents.

To illuminate all of Milwaukee Habitat’s 2023 homes, the team was tasked with collecting 600 LED bulbs. The team got right to work, putting up signs and donation drop boxes throughout the local community, in addition to spreading the word on social media. From the library, to a local hardware store, and more, the team began collecting the energy-saving bulbs.

In just three weeks, the team blew past their goal of 600 bulbs, collecting nearly 1000 LED bulbs to donate to Milwaukee Habitat. It’s an amazing accomplishment that will help light up Milwaukee Habitat homes into 2024!

To celebrate, Milwaukee Habitat Executive Director Brian Sonderman visited the team after their successful collection drive. The team was really excited about being able to contribute to Habitat’s mission according to Betters.

“They all just got this really great look of accomplishment and pride,” said Kathy Betters. “[The success] showed them how hard work will pay off.”

The team isn’t only excelling in this collection drive. The autonomous LEGO robots the team built and programmed performed well in state competition, earning them an invitation to the American Robotics Open FLL Challenge Invitational.

The students are challenged to create robots, using LEGO Smart Bricks, to complete tasks that align with the theme, including – as Betters explains – wind turbine and hydroelectric missions.

“Even if [these students] don’t go into a STEM field, this is a program that can help them find out about what they want to do in life,” says Betters. “They get experience in engineering, marketing, research, public speaking, and community service.”

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