April 17, 2014

Blue Mountain Elementary Places Second in Robotics Challenge

Fourteen teams from Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania,
met on March 30 at Blue Mountain Academy (BMA) in Hamburg, Pennsylvania,
for the regional Robotics Challenge. The Pennsylvania Conference-sponsored
event drew participants from 11 Adventist schools and three community clubs.

Blue Mountain Seventh-day Adventist Elementary School (BME) won
second place and the privilege of attending the national challenge in Sacramento,
California, May 12. First place went to Robothunder, a community club
from East Windsor, New Jersey, and third place went to Mount Aetna Adventist
School from Hagerstown, Maryland.

The Blue Mountain Elementary school team pose with their second-place trophy at the FIRST Lego League and Adventist Robotic League challenge. The seven member team won a place at the ARL national challenge.[Photo: CU Visitor]“I am amazed,” says Rachael Wardecke, principal and teacher. “I
think 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

Paulo Laguna, computer science teacher at BMA, organized the
conference robotics program with seven elementary school clubs during the
2012-13 school year. “When I first learned about the Adventist Robotic League
(ARL), I was fascinated,” he says. “Now I am passionate!” Laguna and BMA
students visit elementary schools helping with the basics and a strategy for

(The ARL was formed in 2002 when the North American Division
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 2013-14 theme. Students study the topic, select and develop a response
plan, then build and program a 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 explain their
research; Core Values, via interviews and observations of how the team
functions; and Enthusiasm, evaluating spirit, partnership, respect for their
teammates and others, and gracious professionalism.

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

Mentors, teachers, and volunteers, guide their students. Deanna
Dekle, a volunteer mentor for BME, says, “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.” (She says He has.)

Fire Chief Bob Ward from Hazelton, Pennsylvania, 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 says, “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,” explains Laguna.

Kathya Gomez, a student from Harrisburg Adventist School in Pennsylvania,
says her experience was a “complicated, stressful, mission. We build it
together and learn to program it together. Gracious professionalism means we
don’t give up, or get discouraged. We just keep going.”

For more
information about ARL, visit