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The RoboRangers, a Katy-based robotics team, attended a seminar arranged by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services – Bureau of Consumer Health (HDHHS-BCHS) and Hermann Memorial TMC, providing the team with an invaluable hands-on experience about the importance of food safety.

RoboRangers attending the BCHS seminar viewed a PowerPoint presentation by Carolyn Gray, chief sanitarian, on “Partners in Combating Food Contamination: Keeping Food Safe.” Larry Goodman (sanitarian III, supervisor) gave a demonstration on proper washing, rinsing, and sanitizing of utensils and answered the team’s questions about the most common health violations at retail food establishments. C.P Yang (sanitarian III, hospital and university inspector) demonstrated the use of food inspection equipment. The inspectors gave the team refrigerator thermometers, a food thermometer, heat sensitive test strips for checking the temperature of dishwashers for further use and experimentation at home.

Yang and Bob Peake, director of retail food service operations at Hermann Memorial TMC, arranged a simulated inspection of Hermann Memorial Hospital. The hospital staff provided the RoboRangers with pizza, cookies and ice cream. Afterwards, they were greeted by Sharon Cox, director of food and nutrition, and given a demonstration by Angie Garrett, director of health care improvement, on the importance of hand washing using GLO-GERM and a black light. Peake took the team through all areas of the kitchen from receiving to service of food–highlighting important food safety issues for each area.

The RoboRangers, comprised of fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, are competing in the 2011 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics competition. Every year, FLL releases a new challenge based on a real world scientific topic. This year’s theme is entitled “Food Factor.” In addition to an autonomous robot challenge, all teams must complete a project based on the challenge theme. The RoboRangers will seek to apply the information gained from the HDHHS seminar and field trip to their challenge. This year, they will continue to research the topic of food safety and examine the possible points of contamination our food encounters–from exposure to insects and creatures, to unsterile processing and transportation, to unsanitary preparation and storage–then find ways to prevent or combat these contaminates.

Formed during the fall of 2010, the RoboRangers consists of eight elementary students in the 4th and 5th grades and 2 middle school students in the 6th grade. The team is from Katy, Texas and is coached by Damian and Susan Lynch. For more information about RoboRangers, visit www.roborangers.com.

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Robo Rangers and HDHHS staff on field trip at Hermann Memorial TMC - From left, Larry Goodman, McKay Shurtz, Bobby Simmons, Morgan Fontenot, Kailyn O'Neal, Fiona Lynch, Bob Peake, Trent Zapalac, Ray Zhang, Aidan Lynch, Alex Concepcion, C.P. Yang and Carolyn Gray. -- Bureau of Consumer Health