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Positively Cincinnati: Pleasant Ridge elementary students create crossing-guard robot

Posted at 10:50 PM, Jan 29, 2020

Do you remember the first time you really created something or accomplished something on your own? Total recall of that feeling is why I love today’s “Positively Cincinnati.”

I met a group of grade-school boys at the Nativity School in Pleasant Ridge who are members of the robotics team. They range in age from 5th to 8th grade. That difference could present a problem in some circles, but not with these kids. They worked together in the name of competition to put together a project to keep Cincinnati’s pedestrians safer.

They get major props because they’re dialed into a problem in their region — one local leader says Hamilton County alone saw 11 pedestrian deaths last year — and they decided to try and do something about it.

Their fix is The Gatekeeper, a a robotic crossing guard that moves when someone in the crosswalk moves. It’s outfitted with lights and a big stop sign. It’s tough to miss, and that’s the point: These kids said they want drivers to see The Gatekeeper and stop.

It took all kinds of know-how and some guidance from their coaches to build their prototype which they’re taking to the state First Lego League Competition this weekend.

“I am amazingly proud of their effort," said teacher and coach Kathy Zubelik.

And they’ve turned some heads in the right direction.

Police Specialist Mike Flamm called The Gatekeeper a “unique idea that hasn’t been tried, hasn’t been explored.”

“I certainly see this as something that is doable within the city – certainly here in Pleasant Ridge," Sharon Garry with Hamilton County Safe Communities said.

Time will tell, but the lesson the boys have learned is a valuable one.

Sixth-grade student and team member Christopher Farinu put it best: “Science is important because you can learn great things from it, and take what you learn and put it out into the world.”

Have fun taking your ideas to the world, kids, and thank you for taking me back to that first time I did something big on my own.

Mine wasn’t altruistic, but it lives large in my memory. I was 6 years old and wanted to sell 250 boxes of Girl Scout Cookies to get a special patch.

My parents told me if I wanted it, I had to earn it myself. And I did — I sold every single box. It was a banner day when I sewed that badge onto my sash. I even got my picture in the paper.

Those moments in youth when you get to stand on your own and take pride in something are precious. I hope someday when the Nativity Blockheads (that’s their team name) look back on this moment of their achievement, team work, and just good work, they smile.