Genie engineers give students the lowdown on scissor lifts

Noah Benitez (left) operates a Genie scissor lift as engineer Gwendoly Espe and Tyler Runyan watch. Noah and Tyler visited Genie in Redmond for research on a robotics project. - Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter
Noah Benitez (left) operates a Genie scissor lift as engineer Gwendoly Espe and Tyler Runyan watch. Noah and Tyler visited Genie in Redmond for research on a robotics project.
— image credit: Samantha Pak, Redmond Reporter

Trying to reach objects up high is always a challenge, but it can be particularly difficult for seniors.

To help with this problem, a group of fourth- and fifth-graders from Cascade Ridge Elementary School in Sammamish are developing a prototype for what they are calling the Super Stable Lift. This compact scissor lift would be equipped with a platform for seniors to stand on or roll a wheelchair onto and would rise up to allow them to complete the high-reaching task at hand.

Developing the lift is part of an upcoming FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics competition in December, part of which includes a research project addressing a problem to do with a specific theme. This year’s theme is “Senior Solutions,” aimed at the challenges that senior citizens face in accomplishing daily tasks.

And while the team — the Robot Gladiators — are not building a working model, they will do a presentation for judges explaining their product.

As part of their research, the team visited Terex Corporation/Genie Industries in Redmond earlier this week to learn more about scissor lifts. Genie specializes in building work lifts and platforms and the eight youngsters spent Wednesday afternoon with engineers who shared information about how their equipment works and what techniques the students could use for their Super Stable Lift.

“They’ve done their homework,” said Genie engineer Keith Seiler about the questions and comments the Gladiators had for them.

The questions ranged from the general about how scissor lifts work and what makes them safe to the very specific, such as why Genie uses a hydraulic system to operate its lifts rather than a pneumatic system.

Gwendoly Espe, another Genie engineer, also met with the Gladiators and was equally impressed with the students.

“They were really smart,” she said. “They’ll ask you the questions without any filter at all and that’s really refreshing.”

During their visit to Genie, the Gladiators — accompanied by parent coaches Linda Warner and Tracy Myers — built their own scissor boards and also had the opportunity to get up close and personal with a number of the company’s products and even try their hands at operating a scissor lift. The latter activity was met with great enthusiasm and excitement.

Warner said in addition to the research project, teams at the FLL competition must also build and program a LEGO robot to complete a number of tasks on a competition mat onsite. The final part of the competition is displaying FLL’s core values such as good sportsmanship, cooperation, respectfulness and teamwork.

The Gladiators are one of two teams from Cascade Ridge who are part of the school’s robotics club and will be participating in the December competition. Warner said the club is in its second year and is made up of fourth- and fifth-graders.

The club is a mix of first-time and returning members such as fifth-grader Harry Myers, the student to ask the hydraulic-versus-pneumatic question.

Harry said he joined the club because he and his brother like using electronics and figuring out how they work. He enjoys learning about programming the robots but his favorite part has been getting to build with LEGO and working with other kids.

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