Team Tacobots, a group of nine talented elementary school students from Fremont, California, has earned a coveted spot to compete at the upcoming LEGO World Championship from April 27-30, 2016, in St. Louis, Missouri. Tacobots is one of the youngest teams ever to win the Northern California Regional Tournament for their Smart Trash robotic innovation that helps the environment by properly sorting electronic waste (e-waste). Team Tacobots will represent Northern California at the LEGO World Championship that will host 108 teams from 46 different countries.
A group of students from 4th-6th grades of the Mission San Jose Elementary School from Fremont, California, formed Tacobots for their shared love of technology, the environment and tacos. For more than a year, approximately 29,000 teams around the world competed at various regional tournaments and championship rounds and only 108 teams secured a spot to advance to the LEGO World Championship. At every competing level, a panel of judges reviews the project based on the level of innovation, practicality, teamwork and presentation.
Team Tacobots is tackling the environmental issue of battery disposal and e-waste with its Smart Trash solution. Toxic compounds from the e-waste such as lead and mercury are harmful pollutants and can impact the air and water quality. About 60% of the 3.14 tons of e-waste generated in the U.S. ended up in landfills and incinerators (source: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 2013).
Tacobots’ Smart Trash enables identification of e-waste by detecting embedded RFID tags at the point of pickup or at the point of sorting at the Material Recycling Facility (MRF). The team built a prototype using an Arduino board and RFID sensors to demonstrate feasibility. With this project, Tacobots wants to raise consumer awareness about the impact of e-waste in the landfills. The students also hope that electronic manufacturers, RFID manufacturers, and waste management companies will work together just as they did to solve this problem.
Mr. Chuck Graves, school principal of the Mission San Jose Elementary School from Fremont, California, said, “We are proud that students from our school performed so well outside of the school setting. Tacobots are an inspiration to other students. I am very proud of this team as they have shown the results that can be achieved by working together as a team. This experience will bring lasting memories as they mold into future innovators.”
The Tacobots team is comprised of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders that includes seven boys and two girls. Most of the students are second-generation immigrants.