by Monte Sahlin

By AT News Team, May 20, 2014

The Tech Cadets from Forest Lake Education Center, an Adventist elementary school in the suburbs of Orlando, Florida, won the Championship Award Sunday (May 18) at the Adventist Robotics League (ARL) annual tournament in Sacramento, California. "The event went very well," Mel Wade, the ARL coordinator, told Adventist Today. "We had a good day!"

Ten teams from around North America traveled to the event hosted on the campus of Sacramento Adventist Academy this year. A total of 80 or more team members and coaches participated in the tenth annual Adventist competition. The theme this year was "Nature's Fury," requiring robots designed for natural disasters or disaster relief or helping communities cope with natural disasters.

There were six regional ARL qualifying events around North America earlier in the year, each with 18 to 20 teams participating. Overall, more than 100 teams have entered a robot in this year's ARL competition.

Teams come in various sizes, but each has at least one adult coach. "Just like in a good basketball or football team, an active and engaged coach will help make a strong team," said Wade. Many of the coaches are professionals in science or technology.

Building a robot that is tested in competition with other robots "inspires" students, Wade stated. "It teaches teamwork. It's a lot of fun. If students have any interest in science or technology or engineering, this builds skills that will be extremely valuable.” A very high percentage of the young people who have participated over the last decade now have occupations in technology related fields such as computer science, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

Teams were judged in three areas: technical design and programming of the robot, core values (team work, cooperation, gracious professionalism), and the project itself, including the tasks or missions the robots do. “We say continually, it's not about the robot. It's so much more," stated Wade.

“Even if they aren't interested in that, the teamwork and problem solving and just the fun they have is really useful,” Wade told Adventist Today. “It teaches things that may be hard to learn in the classroom because it's interpersonal problem solving. It's so much more than robotics.”

Any Adventist school or church youth group that would like to enter a team in the 2015 to begin early in the fall to be ready for the regional qualifying event and then the North American tournament.