Ready for another great idea from First Lego League?
We are the Pixelated Pikas, a 5th grade First Lego League robotics team from Denver, Colorado. As part of our robotics project, we decided to research the American pika. Our science teacher and robotics coach mentioned that he frequently saw pikas in the Colorado mountains as he was hiking. He also said that the pika population is declining and suggested we might want to find out more about them and think of ways we could help.
Based on a Skype call with Chris Ray, we found out that pikas are small creatures looking a bit like guinea pigs. Apparently pikas overheat easily and cannot survive temperatures above 78 F for more than six hours. Pikas use the sub-surface spaces among rocks in boulder fields and taluses to cool off and avoid surface temperatures. We also learned that researchers like Dr. Ray are trying to figure out why the pika population is declining, and that potential reasons include climate change and diseases.
Our team brainstormed ways that we could help researchers study pikas, and we agreed that the current traps that the researchers use could be modified to possibly provide useful data from more animals with less interaction. We decided to make a trap that would both capture the pika and gather some information as well.
Our team decided on what the trap would look like when we found a container that had the right size and shape for our idea.
Our team discussed lots of ideas and decided to add a weight sensor that allows us to weigh the pika, and a camera to confirm that the animal trapped is a pika and possibly to read its ear tags. We also decided that a (sticky) glue board may be helpful to researchers by providing them with hair samples from the trapped pika.
We consulted with a veterinarian for a simple design for a one-way trap door. We then added a motor to allow researchers to remotely open the door.
Finally, the team decided to add wire mesh for ventilation, and a control box which sends data back to the researchers and also houses the power supply for the equipment.
After looking at catalogs of electronic parts like these, the team estimated that our trap might cost around $100 in parts.
Our team thought that the “Pika Trap 2.0” would gather more data compared to the present traps. With our trap, researchers can collect blood samples from the fleas on the glue board and hair samples from the pika. Data from the weight sensor might give some information about the pika’s nutrition. The camera in our trap could be used to identify the individual pika, show the behavior of the pika, and allow researchers to release certain animals without being seen.
Our team thought the trap might be helpful to pika researchers because they could get all this data without having to hike up the mountains again and again.
~ by the Pixelated Pikas