These young students built a crossing-guard robot to keep pedestrians safe

A grade-school robotics team from Ohio put together a project to keep their neighborhood’s pedestrians safer.

The students on Nativity School’s robotics team in Cincinnati, who range in age from 5th to 8th grade, dialed into a problem in their region — one local leader said one county alone, Hamilton County, saw 11 pedestrian deaths last year — and they decided to try and do something about it.

Their fix is “The Gatekeeper,” 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: The students 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 recently took to the state’s “FIRST LEGO League” competition, a guided, global robotics competition aimed at engaging children ages 9 to 16 in research, problem-solving, coding and engineering.

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

They’ve even 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,” Sharon Garry with Hamilton County Safe Communities said.

Time will tell, but the lesson the kids 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.”

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Written by Kristyn Hartman for WCPO.