Friday, February 12, 2010

Kids’ techno-team touts transport safety in robotics competition

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Blue Anchor, N.J.-based ProTran1 LLC is co-host to “the Atoms Family,” a team of teens and pre-teens honored as New Jersey State Champions that will compete in an international robotics competition in Atlanta. The group, also co-sponsored by the Georgia Institute of Technology, has adopted train safety as its theme.

The robotics competition has four parts: the “Robot Score,” where a robot performs a variety of tasks for points on a timed basis; robot design; teamwork; and a “research presentation.” The competion’s research topic, “Smart Move,” mandates a “presentation of a real-life transport problem and the team’s potential solution.”

The Atoms Family members, in researching the topic, discovered that an estimated 18,000 train-to-automobile-related accidents occur annually in the U.S. Seeking to mitigate that problem, the team created the Train Stopper 3000, a wireless device using sensor pads on the tracks. They warn conductors via radio frequency about potential hazards on train tracks, sending an advisory alarm when an object, such as an automobile, is on railroad tracks for more than 20 seconds.

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Upon learning that a comparable device hadn't been patented on the market, to their best knowledge, the team sought a provisional patent that might give their invention a platform for another company to develop and help save lives.

The Atoms Family will be competing against teams from 40 other countries. Prior to the competition, however, the team will be presenting its new technology and program to Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, N.J., and to both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, as well as the Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Members of the team (pictured, left to right) include Jacob Bartek, Peter Bartek, Jon Rodriguez, Lauren Shultz, Luke Smith and Sam Colabella; the team is coached by Christine Shultz (lower center in photo), while Peter Bartek Sr. and Chris Colabella served as adult mentors for the project.