Fourteen teams from Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania met on Sunday, March 30, at Blue Mountain Academy (BMA) for the second Robotics Challenge. Team participants included 11 Adventist schools and three community clubs. The event was sponsored by the Pennsylvania conference,

Blue Mountain SDA Elementary School (BME), Hamburg, won second place and the privilege of competing in the national completion in Sacramento, CA. First place was Robothunder, a community club from East Windsor, NJ, and third place was Mt. Aetna Adventist elementary school from Mt. Aetna, MD.

'I am amazed,' said Rachael Wardecke, principal and teacher of grades 5-8. 'I think that this team shows what a dedicated volunteer can do, especially when one of the goals is to learn to work as a team. This is what they need to learn for life.'

The conference robotics program was organized by Paulo Laguna, computer science teacher at BMA, with seven elementary school clubs beginning during the 2012-2013 school year. 'When I first learned about the Adventist Robotic League (ALL), I was fascinated,' he said. 'Now I am passionate!' Laguna and BMA students visit elementary schools helping with the basic and a strategy for competition.'

The ARL was formed in 2002 when the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists partnered with the FIRST Lego League (FLL) organization for Sunday Challenges.

How It WorksThe FLL was created for one purpose: To get kids interested in science and technology. FIRST is For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Currently, there are 20,000 clubs in 70 countries. Lego develops and sells the robot. Sponsors are international corporations.

This year, a real-world topic is assigned. Nature's Fury was the 2013-2014 theme. Students study the topic, select and develop a response plan, then build and program the robot to implement the plan.

BME's club chose flooding and focused on Puerto Rico as their target area. An emergency kit and delivery system was developed, then a non-profit organization was formed to supply and manage the new agency.

Judging has four categories: Robot Design for innovation and navigational consistency; Project Presentation where teams their research; Core Values, via interviews and observations, of how the team functions. Enthusiasm, spirit, partnership, respect for their teammates and others, and gracious professionalism.

The Game is the last category. For two and a half minutes, teams complete a set of response tasks on a playing field they built.

Mentors, teachers and volunteers guide their students. Deanna Dekle is the volunteer mentor for BME. 'As a parent, I wanted to make a difference. This builds character. It's not just about robots but give and take as they learn to work together.' A full-time nurse, Dekle cut her work hours so she could be involved. 'I'm trusting in God to make up the difference.' He has.

Fire Chief Bob Ward, from Hazelton, brought a team of 10 community students ages 8-14. 'When I learned about the program, I thought it was a great idea. In our area, there is only sports. Unfamiliar with Adventists,' he said, 'I couldn't have had a better welcome. Our kids have a good time when they come.'

'Mentors require no technical skills. The kids do all of the work,' explained Laguna.

Kathya Gomez, a student from Harrisburg SDA School, Harrisburg, has three words to describe her experience. 'Complicated, stressful, mission. We build it together and learn to program it together,' she said. 'Gracious Professionalism means we don't give up, or get discouraged. We just keep going.'

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