Students Build Gluten-Free Safety Robot for National Competition

January 4, 2012

Students Build Gluten-Free Safety Robot for National Competition

Led by NFCA supporter, team takes first place at regionals and prepares for state level competition.

A group of five students from Snoqualmie (WA) Valley School District are bringing celiac awareness to a nationwide robotics and research competition. Led by National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) supporter Nancy Baker and Ram Rathnam, the students will take on competitors at the state level Food Factor Challenge with a robot that monitors gluten-free safety in a shared kitchen.

Watchbot gluten-free safety team

The Food Factor Challenge is this year’s theme for the First Lego League, a competitive robotics and research competition for students between the ages of 9-14 that emphasizes collaboration and good sportsmanship. Participating teams build and program an autonomous robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT components, and deploy it to solve a set of tasks. In addition, every year FLL challenges students to conquer real problems by researching and presenting a unique solution.

This year’s event focused on food safety and methods to prevent contamination. The Snoqualmie Brickbuster’s Team created the WatchBot, a robot that watches the preparation of gluten-free foods in a shared kitchen and reports contamination back to the staff. NFCA Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives Beckee Moreland chimed in on the project, seeing huge potential for using their device to protect the gluten-free customer.

Watchbot gluten-free safety robot

Uncle Si’s Pizza in Snoqualmie, WA, serves gluten-free pizza. Owner, Mike Hayertz, graciously allowed the team to tour their facility and gave them feedback on their invention and presentation. In fact, inspired by the team, Mike Hayertz has gone on to take gluten-free training through NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program. Now, Uncle Si’s not only uses gluten-free ingredients, but also has a system in place to keep those ingredients gluten-free.

Good luck to the students as they take on the next phase of the challenge this month!