Date: May 16, 2007
On May 14, elementary and high school age science enthusiasts from across the country gathered in the Howard Performing Arts Center for the Adventist Robotics League's second annual Adventist Robotics Challenge.
Teams came from as far as Georgia, California, and Washington, having advanced through divisional conference competitions before arriving at Andrews University for the North American Division final. Andrews coordinator and engineering professor Bill Wolfer said, "These are the best of the best."
Teams were judged on robot performance, teamwork, technical precision, and a research project based on this year's theme: Nanoquest. The playing field was a large table covered with Lego obstacles, such as a car crane and "space elevator." The objective was to design and program robots to accomplish missions by successfully navigating through the course and engaging the various contraptions under the pressure of a time limit. Although there were few technical difficulties, Wolfer insisted that "These robots are not as easy as they look."
The members of Cloud Nine, from Lansing, Mich., were excited about the opportunity to put their scientific skills to use on their research project. 'We are working on a device that could cure cancer" said eleventh-grader Tamara Naja. While the project is still in development, Naja offered that "we have worked on the areas where scientists went wrong."
As they entered the teamwork judging room, the focus shifted from the scientific to the interpersonal. Judge Bill Brent pointed to a pile of several hundred pennies, and told the kids they had four minutes to create a 3-D portrait of Abraham Lincoln. Under Naja's command, the team got into gear, using the likeness on the penny as a model. When the four minutes were up, they had recreated Lincoln, down to the textured hair and beard.
After congratulating them on their artistic accomplishment, Brent turned their attention to the real purpose of the exercise, which was to test their ability to cooperate. "Even though it took you a minute to get started," Brent said, "you came together to finish the best Abraham Lincoln we?ve had so far."
Upon exiting the "teamwork" room, the members of Cloud Nine met for a strategy session with their coach, Chad Bernard. After some encouraging words, Bernard sent them on to the technical phase of the competition. Bernard, who was also coaching I.C.U., another team from Lansing, was positive about his involvement with the program. He said, "These kids have been highly motivated, and working with them has been a real blessing."
The excitement reached its peak at 4:00 pm, as the contestants awaited the deliberating judges. As team scores were announced, multiple teams received first, second, and third place scores on the individual components of the competition. When it finally came time to present the Lego Cup to the grand prize winners, Adventist Robotics League director Mal Wade explained that due to the heated nature of the competition, three teams, including Cloud Nine, would be awarded the prize.
Wade expressed his satisfaction with the event: "It's fun watching kids come together to get real life experiences--experiences you can't get out of a book."