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Pictured, from left, are Finn Chatterton, Apurva Kapale, Vianca Venugopalan and Aparna Kapale.
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Pictured, from left, are Deena Mangalaraj, Finn Chatterton, Apurva Kapale and Vianca Venugopalan.
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WIU Faculty-Advised Youth Robot Team Qualifies for World Expo in April

February 19, 2019

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MACOMB, IL – A Macomb-based 4-H club, coached and advised by several Western Illinois University faculty members, has been chosen to take part in the 2019 World Festival Expo in Detroit, MI, in April.

The Macomb Bitty Bots, made up of 5-8 year olds, is a six-member team that began its work in Fall 2018. The club is advised and managed by Kishor Kapale and coached by physical science technology assistants Aparna Kapale and Shu-Hui (Kay) Tsai.

The group is a new addition to the Lego League efforts in Macomb and is the first ever FIRST Lego League Jr. team from Macomb. A second club, formed several years ago, is for children ages 9-14.

The clubs build task-performing robots from Legos to complete challenges on a table. Over a four-month period, the new team learned about its new challenge space, the Moon and the challenges of human survival there. Other problem-solving topics have included air pollution and finding leaks in oil pipelines.

"They came up with their own ideas on how to generate water and oxygen on the Moon and prepared a model of the Moon base using Lego pieces," said Kapale. "They also build several small autonomous robots to do small tasks with the help of a Lego Kit and a programming toolkit."

The new team participated in an expo at the John Deere World Headquarters in Moline, IL, in December. The team presented its work on the Moon base and its Lego model with the judges, and they were recognized with a showmanship award.

"The team had prepared a script to explain their project work to the judges at the Expo and they demonstrated excellent team spirit and tremendous patience for their age," said Kapale.

The team was then invited to the Michigan expo, which is a championship event for the FIRST programs for older children and an invitational for the Lego League Jr. teams that did well in their regional expos. Students participating in this event are Finn Chatterton, Apurva Kapale, Vianca Venugopalan and Deena Mangalaraj.

"I like building things and doing something fun," said Chatterton. "I am excited to be the first person in the family to be part of Lego robot team, and I am very happy to get the Showmanship award."

Apruva said he enjoys working with others during the projects.

"I like learning how to do robots and buildings and learning about the Moon too," he said.

The students meet one night each week to work on their projects.
For additional information about the Lego League, visit For more information about 4-H robotics competitions, visit

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