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Robots and bats? Not something you would normally hear mentioned together. So how does a group of kids that build robots get involved with helping the declining bat population in Kentucky?

Team Blackout from Whitefield Academy in Louisville, KY is a group of middle school robotics students who compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics competitions. FLL Teams are kids aged 9 to 14 who are challenged to design their own solution to current scientific problems and build LEGO® robots that perform autonomous "missions." Over 32,000 teams compete world-wide at regional, state, and country tournaments for an opportunity to compete at the FLL World tournament held in April in St. Louis, MO.

The theme this year is called Animal Allies. Teams must come up with an innovative solution that solves a problem that occurs when humans and animals interact. Team Blackout invented a solution to help the declining bat population in Kentucky. During their research with Kentucky US Fish and Wildlife rangers they learned that the bat population in Kentucky has decreased as much as 83% between 2013 and 2015. They also learned that one of the biggest threats facing bats world-wide is habitat destruction. While working with US Fish and Wildlife rangers they built a bat house using wood, screws, caulk, and window screen. That’s when they got the idea - why can’t we create a 3D printable bat house that doesn’t require woodworking tools or skills that anyone can print? That’s exactly what they did. After researching bat house designs from the Bat Conservation International Group and experimenting with a few ideas on their own they reached out to the engineers at 3Space, a Louisville-based engineering and 3D printing company. Alex Vinson from 3Space introduced the team to 3D modeling software packages and presented a few ideas to get them started. That’s all they needed to fuel their imagination. In the end, they designed a modular bat house in the shape of an octagon. It’s printed in 3 sections and can be expanded to any height desired. The inside and bottom plate use a pattern called Voronoi (named after Georgy Voronoi a Ukrainian Mathematician) which creates a natural, vine looking plate for bats to climb and roost. The bat house design is free to download on Thingiverse.com.

Team Blackout will compete at the Kentucky State FLL tournament at Northern Kentucky University on Saturday, February 4th. They won a spot at the state tournament by winning the Overall Champions Award against forty-eight other teams at the Louisville FLL Engineers of Tomorrow Regional Tournament. 

Team Blackout is coached by:

Robert Toole - IGear Online   •   Brad Janssen - Hewlett Packard     

Allen Thomasson – Thermal Equipment   •  Charles Pomles – Premiere Packaging 

Robots and Bats?


Team Blackout from Whitefield Academy in Louisville, KY compete in the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics competitions

Team Blackout Team Members (left to right) – Ryan Thomasson, Caleb Wright, Olivia Janssen, Quinlan Toole, Aidan Pomles.

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Robert Toole



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