Even to this day, horsepeople with decades of experience in the industry are still challenged to ensure that their horses are kept adequately hydrated. That’s why it is remarkable that a group of eight youngsters from west of Toronto may have just come up with a comprehensive solution to the tricky problem of simultaneously hydrating multiple equine and individually monitoring each of the horses' hydration levels.
The eight members of the E-Bots Hydrators team (Image courtesy E-Bots Hydrators)
Pam Catricala of E-Bots Robotics, based in Oakville, Ont., recently took the time to speak with Trot Insider. She explained how her team of eight young, sharp minds was tasked with improving the relationship between animals and humans. The challenge was part of the ‘Animal Allies’ theme from the FIRST LEGO League, where ‘tomorrow’s innovators practice imaginative thinking and teamwork.’ Guided by adult coaches, FIRST LEGO League teams research a real-world problem such as food safety, recycling, energy, etc., and are challenged to develop a solution. They also must design, build, program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS® technology.
Catricala’s Team 3436, which is more commonly known as the ‘E-Bots Hydrators,’ designed a watering post dubbed the ‘H2O Post, Horses Hydrating Outside.’ The post hydrates multiple horses at one watering source. The post also records when and what amount each horse is drinking. Hydration information is key to indicating equine wellness. The team has received a provisional patent for their idea, which also includes real-time smartphone monitoring of multiple horses’ hydration levels.
Catricala explained to Trot Insider that the team’s creation has done extremely well in various regional, provincial and international competitions.
“Our competition season began at the Halton Regionals, where we won the first-place Champions Award,” Catricala explained. “Two months later, we progressed onto Provincials, where we won first-place Champions Award and qualification to the Ontario Innovation Celebration and the FIRST World Festival in St. Louis, Missouri.”
The E-Bots Hydrators went on to win the Ontario Innovation Celebration three weeks later, and were then invited to submit their project idea to the international Global Award in March.
“The day in April when we left for the World Festival in St. Louis, we found out that we had won one out of 20 spots in the world to travel to Washington, DC in June for the Global Innovation Award.”
Right after learning that they had made the short list for the Global Innovation Award, the E-Bots Hydrators went out an earned first-place Project – Innovation Solution at the World Festival in St. Louis – a huge accomplishment.
“We are now working away at our project in anticipation of Washington, DC where the top 20 teams with the best research projects will be together to try and win the grand prize of $20,000.”
The hydrator and its supporting monitoring system is brilliant, but what is even more impressive is that the creation was built by youngsters outside of the equine industry. E-Bots Robotics is a program dedicated to bringing the world of programming, designing and building robots to children in Grades 2 -10. The minds behind the invention – Ashton, Andrew, Andrea, Graeme, Connor, Adi, Jason and Sheil – are currently enrolled anywhere between Grades 7 through 10 and are residents of Oakville, Mississauga and Burlington.
E-Bots’ mission is to engage children in their futures; in designing, building and programming robots through active, creative and meaningful learning. Using different programming platforms, E-Bots enables students to explore science, technology, engineering and math in a fun, hands–on way, while allowing them to work with others and excel in their ability to problem-solve, stimulate critical thinking, and communicate.