They are Team GryffinDAR and they mean business.

Like the Harry Potter character that inspired their team name, they showed courage and determination when they presented their FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) Lego League competition material to Rome City leaders Tuesday before taking it down to Mt. Paran in Kennesaw for the regional FLL contest Saturday.

The seven-member robotics team from Darlington School grades 5 to 8 may have battled technical difficulties during a PowerPoint presentation and had to improvise their robotics coding demonstration when they left the actual robot behind, but to Rome City Manager Sammy Rich, that’s what set them apart from others.

“Even when things didn’t quite go to plan, you didn’t panic and found solutions,” Rich told them.

The “practice presentation” — one of the pre-contest requirements of the competition — began with students Isabella Spears and Katie Beth Allen sharing their slide show and videos on “The Path to Providing a New Sustainable Energy Source.” It centered on converting the roof of the old General Electric plant on Redmond Circle into a solar energy farm.

Calling Rome a “beautiful little-big town with a perfect small town vibe,” the two girls in regulation khaki skirts first introduced the problem with the GE plant before offering the solar solution.

“Once a large company that produced lots of jobs and served a purpose, it is now sitting empty due to a big problem,” Allen began, explaining the issue with the toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyls used in cooling agents during the energy-generated process. “The plant that was producing these harsh chemicals is just sitting there taking up space that we can use to make our town just a little bit better.”

Installing solar panels on the plant roof would provide a cleaner source of energy “so that power plants in the future will be inspired to use cleaner sources of energy,” Spears pointed out, adding that 2,800 solar panels would generate enough power for 250 homes annually.

Rich and Assistant City Manager Patrick Eidson said they thought the idea was terrific — especially since they’re not advocating taking the building down to create the solar farm. Destroying the building would likely make matters worse by releasing the PCBs into the general environment.

Continuing to demonstrate their core values of innovation and teamwork, two boys on the GryffinDAR team showed off their 3D computer model of the solar farm project, which was followed by a sneak peek into the robotics and coding projects the three other boys were taking to Saturday’s competition.

Overall, city officials were quite impressed.

Darlington Technology Integration Coordinator Beth Wardlaw explained later the group meets with the Robotics Club after school every day and a few of them also are in a middle school robotics class.

“Darlington has a very successful upper school robotics team,” Wardlaw said. “We’re just trying to help grow that for them, too, by starting them earlier.”


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