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Saving Animals and Preventing Power Outages One Lego at a Time

While playing with Legos can be a favorite childhood past time for many, The Thunder Bots, coached by PHI Senior Manager of Reliability Programs Matt Bowen, are using them to propose a new animal protection device. The community-based team of nine elementary and middle school students skillfully bring bright ideas to life using Legos. The Thunder Bots are part of the South Jersey Robotics organization, whose mission is to inspire and educate young people through mentor-based programs.

The idea came to life after Manager of Data Analytics, Eric Jaffe, presented to The Thunder Bots, sharing common causes of power outages and how animals can sometimes cause outages. The team, along with support from Bowen, innovated by designing and prototyping a non-conductive polymer lid for overhead distribution transformers, instead of a metal lid, with the potential to help protect animals as they climb on a transformer, while also preventing power outages.

The Thunder Bots concept was selected for a Moorestown Robotics Club event, where the team won the Project Award and the Robot Performance Award and were one of five teams to move on to the South Jersey Regional competition at Rowan University. Of the 16 teams competing, The Thunder Bots tied for second place on the robot competition board and won the Champions Award. The team also finished first among 48 teams that are part of the South Jersey Robotics organization. The Thunder Bot’s achievement at the regional competition secured their place at the First Lego League Challenge competition in Houston, Texas in April 2023, where the team competed against teams from around the world. The Thunder Bots were selected for a Gracious Professionalism Award and recognized for their team spirit for positively interacting with other teams throughout the competition.

“It has been rewarding to watch the members of this team grow,” explained Bowen. “This includes my son Michael who is part of the team. This competition was more than just designing and programming mission performing robots, it provided the opportunity for the team to learn about real world issues and develop innovative solutions to solve them. I am very proud of each and every one of them.”

The Thunder Bots presented the creation to our innovation team and company leaders for potential concept implementation on company infrastructure. Learn more about our environmental commitment at