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Student wins regional award for robot that aims to save lives

Flagstaff student Charlie Danko has created a robotic arm in an effort to make workplaces safer.
Charlie Danko, an eighth grader at Flagstaff Academy Charter School, 3D printed and programmed a robot to help prevent workplace injuries. His robot recently won an award at a regional science fair.

While popular science is often filled with concepts of robots that spy, fight, demolish, entertain and conduct other exciting — or terrifying — tasks, a seventh-grade student at Flagstaff Academy Charter School wants to show the world that robots can help people too.

“I can’t think of a better goal than saving people’s lives,” said Charlie Danko, who 3D printed and programmed a robot that aims to make workplaces — particularly factories — safer.

His creation won a Best in Show award at the 51st Corden Pharma Regional Science Fair, which was held in Boulder Feb. 25. Awards were given out on March 1.

Charlie’s robotic arm is designed to conduct dangerous, repetitive tasks for workers, so they can oversee the tasks rather than risking their lives. The arm has a claw for picking up and moving objects, and it has a homing sequence so the robot knows where it is in space.

Charlie has been working on his project over the school year — fixing bugs in the code and making adjustments, and he hopes to keep making upgrades in the future.

“I am hoping to improve my robotic arm by adding more capabilities,” he said.

Charlie’s project was chosen to move on to the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair at Colorado State University, which is scheduled from April 13-15.

The Corden Pharma Regional Science Fair drew 184 students from the Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley Schools, said Ellen DeBacker, chair of the event.

“The students have the opportunity to design and carry out an experiment of the student’s own design to solve a problem they think is important,” DeBacker explained. “Then they have the opportunity to create a display and present to three to five judges who are scientists, very much in the manner of what is done at professional conferences.”

Out of 153 projects created by the students, 35 were selected to move on to the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair, she said.

“The students had a very successful fair with a variety of project topics presented,” DeBacker said. “The judges were impressed with the projects and the students.”

Charlie is also among St. Vrain students heading to the VEX Robotics World Championship 2023 in Dallas in late April and early May. Middle and high school teams competed in a state championship in Denver on March 4, and 16 teams from St. Vrain advanced to the world championship

Both the Colorado Science and Engineering Fair and the world championship offer a variety of prizes, including college scholarships, DeBacker said.

Amber Fisher

About the Author: Amber Fisher

I'm thrilled to be an assistant editor with the Longmont Leader after spending the past decade reporting for news outlets across North America. When I'm not writing, you can find me snowboarding, reading fiction and running (poorly).
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