FLL team’s bat houses to increase numbers & reduce mosquitos

By SARAH DOOLITTLE, Four Points News

The Canyon Ridge Middle School 6th grade First Lego League team #6751 “Bat-teries” is helping reduce mosquitos by increasing the local bat population. 

The team is made up of eight students: Aaron Plakas, Arnov Sagi, Chase Suthar, Elise Zhou, Matewos Ghebremicael, Mireya Jawahar, Shreya Kumar and William Whitwort. 

Bat-teries meet once a week after school along with two volunteer coaches. Irina Plakas is head coach, in charge of the core values and innovative project and Michael Whitworth is assistant coach, in charge of robot design and robot missions.

Bat-teries’ research shows there are fewer bats, in some cases, due to rural development and a fungus called White Nose Syndrome. After voting in class, they decided this would be their FLL “Innovation Project”. 

They contacted Bat Conservation International with questions about building bat houses. The team reviewed plans and decided to build a prototype but first shared their idea with a member of the Steiner Ranch HOA board, Chris Langevin, to get feedback and ideas.

Langevin really liked their project, gave them feedback and suggested they put a plan together to present to the entire board for approval.

For their presentation to the HOA board, the team built a life-size, three chamber bat house prototype out of cardboard to save on costs. They prepared a cost analysis for the project that included materials and labor costs. Once they had their pitch, costs and prototype the team presented this to the board for approval and funding. 

The HOA approved their project along with funding for six bat houses. The Steiner Trails Committee is currently reviewing potential spots where the bat houses can be installed, which may be in early 2020.

The kids also shared their ideas, plans, prototype and resources with another FLL team  working on the same problem in Alaska, Team Moosebots. They did a video call and asked each other questions. They shared pictures and stories about one another and what FLL means to them.

When the kids went to a scrimmage at Laura Bush Elementary, they met with two local elected officials, State Representative Vikki Goodwin (HD-47) and Travis County Commissioner Bridgid Shae, Precinct 2 and were able to share their project ideas and ask questions.

The team recently modified its prototype and built a four chamber bat house out of wood, using plans from Bat Conservation International. Once completed, they painted it using the recommended paint color (green) for Austin.

The team’s goal is to bring bat awareness to the community, decrease mosquito populations and to help grow the bat population. Bat-teries competed against other Texas schools on Jan. 17.