Robot Rockers looking out for the environment

RACHEL FUERSCHBACH/STAFFMembers of the Emmet Belknap Robot Rockers Lego robotics team are, from left, front row: Shawn Sanford, Josh Frank, Donovan Monaco, Zachary Snuszki, Emily Clifton, Mackenzie Phelps; and back row, Ashley Smith, Logan Wendt, Ben Sielski and Savannah Shine. The team is undertaking the first known alkaline battery recycling collection in Lockport this month, as part of its entry in the annual FIRST Lego League robotics competition.

The Emmet Belknap Robot Rockers are collecting spent alkaline batteries in the community in an effort to help save the environment.

Through research, the Lego robotics team at Belknap Intermediate School learned alkaline batteries contain harmful elements including mercury, nickel, magnesium and zinc.

"They have many chemicals that pollute the earth, so we figured if we could collect them in our school we could help protect the earth," student Logan Wendt said.

The team reached out to different public entities in the area to get them on board with hosting one of three special recycling buckets, which the team purchased using funding from its sponsors. Their aim is to collect batteries and have them shipped to Michigan and Arizona for proper recycling.

So far, they've managed to get the OK to have recycling buckets set out during the downtown trick-or-treat event from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, at the corner of Main and Cottage streets; and at the Lockport Post Office from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 28.

Presently Lockport-area residents do not have the option to recycle batteries. It's a high-expense endeavor and there's no profit in it for recyclers, the students found in their research.

But throwing spent alkaline batteries in the trash is bad for the environment, the students learned. When batteries are landfilled, the harmful elements in them may end up leaching into water bodies and threatening animal populations.

"Not recycling them is not against the law, but it should be because it hurts the environment," student Josh Frank said.

The Robot Rockers undertook research on alkaline batteries as part of the team's annual entry in the FIRST Lego League international robotics competition. This year's contest theme, "Trash Trek," has students in over 80 countries exploring trash issues and considering ways to address a trash issue in their communities.

The Rockers will take their Lego robot to contest in Buffalo on Nov. 21.

The team is advised by Belknap science teacher Michael Lieber and coordinator Cheryl Anterline.

 Contact reporter Rachel Fuerschbach at 439-9222, ext. 6246.

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