In the leadup to our recent tournament, the Year 5 and 6 FLL eams were incredibly busy programming, building and testing their robots, while also working on their research projects.
As part of this year’s competition, the girls had to investigate and pose an innovative solution to a real-world problem relating to the interaction between humans and animals. The Year 5’s sought to reduce the impact of discarded fishing line on river dolphins, while the Year 6’s sought to raise awareness and promote the better treatment of newborn calves in the dairy industry.
As part of their research, the Year 5s interviewed Sarah Marley, a marine biologist from Curtin University. Sarah is conducting her doctoral research on the impact of human activity on dolphins’ ability to communicate in noisy sound environments. She was able to share her experience and knowledge of the problems arising from the interactions between humans and dolphins.
We learned that:
- When dolphins get caught in fishing line, their fins get torn off, making it hard for them to swim – Matilda.
- To help stop dolphins getting caught in discarded fishing line in the Swan River, there are small bins placed alongside the river near popular fishing spots – Elizabeth.
- The Maui dolphins have rounded fins – Asher.
- Sarah, a marine biologist, is researching how dolphins communicate – Beth.
- Dolphins can live for a very long time – Sarah M.
Drawing upon Sarah’s expertise, the Year 5 team voted to focus on the problem of dolphins being caught in discarded fishing line in the nearby Swan River. Their proposed solution was to sell and promote biodegradable fishing line, which would naturally decompose after a certain time of exposure to salt water.
Investigating Animal Welfare in the Dairy Industry
Prior to this year’s FLL season, I knew very little about the dairy industry, except that Western Australian dairy farmers have been severely struggling financially due to milk producers being paid less than the cost of production by big dairy companies.
With the help of Jess Andony, the Young Dairy Network Coordinator at Western Dairy, the girls investigated some very emotive, complex issues in the dairy industry. We learned a great deal about the dairy industry and were surprised to learn that cows generally enjoy being milked.
The girls ultimately voted to focus on improving the Australian and international practice of separating newborn calves from their mothers shortly after birth. The calves are taken away to be slaughtered as veal. Their solution was to create a website promoting the improved treatment of newborn cows, and supporting a charity dedicated to improving the welfare of dairy cows.