Sprocket Squad works wonders with Legos
Published 7:34 pm, Wednesday, February 16, 2011
They call themselves the Sprocket Squad.
It's an all-male club of young New Milford students inspired by a tour of New Milford Hospital to design a miniature mobile hospital unit.
Inside the medical facility on wheels is a portable CAT scan machine, an instrument sterilization station, an emergency room, a three-person computer station, and even a jet engine heater.
The whole thing is constructed of Lego blocks, with patients no bigger than a thumb.
The designers are fairly small, too -- all of them first-graders at Northville and John Pettibone School.
Last September, the parents of this group of friends wanted them to have an activity not sports-related.
They decided to form a club affiliated with the junior-level First Lego League (FLL), an international organization that encourages children to build robotic projects.
Members start their building with Legos, then advance to more ambitious projects with moving parts as they get older.
The Sprocket Squad's coach is local engineer Gerry Cahalan.
Parent Jenni Cahalan said the boys were challenged to come up with a project based on the theme "Body Forward," and a project related to finding answers to what can go wrong with the body, she said.
To come up with their project, the boys were required to do research including touring several departments at New Milford Hospital.
They visited a laboratory where they saw how surgical instruments are sterilized and packaged, and visited treatment areas as well as the office spaces where patient charts are compiled.
From that visit, the boys brainstormed, with their parents' guidance, what might be an appropriate project.
They opted to build the mobile hospital, Ms. Cahalan said.
She noted a part of the FLL experience is a requirement the children do their own work, with parental supervision.
So the boys worked together in teams, with weekly meetings at Berkshire Printing, where their coach works, to build their various hospital sections before they then put them all together into what is a clever, moving mini-hospital.
Ryan said they saw a picture of a mobile hospital, and agreed that was what they wanted to try to build.
"It's cool,'' said Sydney Crookshank, the older sister of club member Matthew, said of their finished project.
Asked what he likes most about the club and working with LEGOS, Matthew said, "You can build whatever you want.''
Throughout the building phase, Ms. Cahalan said, the boys learned basic engineering principles and how to work together for a common purpose.
There was a lot of breaking down and starting over before they arrived at the finished product, she said.
"They're so fun,'' Ms. Cahalan said of the boys. "There's great energy in those little men.''
For more information about the league or how to start a team, visit