Water project for Puerto Rico wins top honors for Greenfield Middle School robotics team

  • Greenfield Middle School

Recorder Staff
Published: 12/17/2017 8:54:59 PM

GREENFIELD — The robotics class tossed around different ideas for their community service project. The one catch was it has to be related to water.

They were going to enter a robotics competition down in Agawam to compete against western Massachusetts schools, and this year’s theme was water. So the class, led by sixth-grade Greenfield Middle School teacher Rachel Cummings, first thought about an idea involving access to showers for homeless people in town.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September, the class soon changed its plans. They wondered how they could get people clean water there.

Then, when a student from Puerto Rico enrolled in the Middle School after moving here following the hurricane, the connection grew stronger. The student joined the robotics Community Service Learning class, which meets for the final 45 minutes of the school day.

As a student without knowing English yet, she helped proofread their project, translated in Spanish. This way, their purification system not only was conceptually a strong idea to help those in Puerto Rico, but also it was more accessible to residents there with directions in Spanish of how to build their own device.

“It means a lot because you know you’re helping to the world,” William Ainsworth, 11, said.

Their project, which they also intend on documenting with the school’s film club, not only was an idea they were proud of, but it was one particularly well received by judges at the robotics competition they participated in earlier this month — earning them top honors in the community service category for the region’s Massachusetts FIRST LEGO League Alliance competition.

The robotics team, just formed, was competing formally in its first competition. Although they did not place in the competition in terms of their robot, built using various technology and LEGOs, and then coded on the computer, the GMS team did win in the community service element of the competition, and that was with their project to help out people in Puerto Rico.

“We went with the intent to learn and have fun,” said Cummings, who is excited to continue to build the team, made up of students in her class.

At December’s School Committee meeting, the robotics class, which was sponsored by Brad’s Place at the competition with T-shirts and food, showed off its new trophy and told the committee about their achievements and project.

Earlier in the day, though, while preparing to present before the School Committee, students tinkered with their robots. They were eager to use what they had learned from the judges and from other schools so that they could get better at what they were doing in a class that functionally acts like a math class, a coding class and, at times, an English class. But for most of them, it’s simply seen as their favorite class.

“This is a good group of students and it brings us together,” Jacob Petrin, 11, said. “We’re all learning and learning from our mistakes.”

You can reach
Joshua Solomon at:


413-772-0261, ext. 264


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