OAA Places First and Third at Southern Challenge for Robotics
On March 25, 2018, the robotics team from Oakwood Adventist Academy (OAA) won first place in one category and third place in another in the Southern Challenge – an annual tournament held at Southern Adventist University. The tournament features LEGO robotics and research projects presented by middle and high school students. This was OAA’s first time participating in the Southern Challenge. The Southern Challenge is a member of the Adventist Robotics League (ARL), a consortium of Seventh-day Adventist educators that sponsor and promote classroom learning through robotics. ARL is a full partner of FIRST LEGO League and uses the latter’s materials, rules and challenges in tournaments. While the Southern Challenge targets Adventist schools throughout the Southern Union, 2018 participants came from as far away as Hinsdale, Illinois.
The challenge has three levels of competition – robot missions, scientific research, and a core values presentation. The theme for this year’s challenge was Hydrodynamics, which required teams to program robots to solve water-related problems. These problems were associated with the process of locating, transporting, using and disposing water. Teams also had to conduct research to identify their own problem and recommend a viable solution. Additionally, teams were required to share their research with at least two professionals and include the latter’s responses in their final research report. All teams presented their research at the Southern Challenge before a panel of judges who followed the presentations with tough questions, requiring students to defend the integrity of their research.
The last area of competition required teams to present on the core values of First Lego League: We are a team. We do the work to find solutions with guidance from our coaches and mentors. We know our coaches and mentors don’t have all the answers; we learn together. We honor the spirit of friendly competition. What we discover is more important than what we win. We share our experiences with others.
The OAA team was led by its coach, high school math and physics teacher Mr. Brandon Dent. The team’s assistant coaches are Vaughan Mountain and Oak- Robotics Oakwood University student Kaiana Lewis.The team is made up of the following students from grades four to eight:
Gabriel Madrid II
Vaughan Mountain II
The OAA team chose to research the problem of high soil salinity from irrigation and its detrimental effects on produce. This international problem that threatens global food supplies was introduced to the team by James Davis. The team’s research identified several reasons why salt collects in irrigation water and how the evaporation of water from the surface of the earth causes salt to collect around the roots of plants and produce. The team’s research identified leaching and proper drainage as a viable solution that flushes salt away from plant roots.
The implementation of their solution included setting an optimal irrigation schedule for typical weather conditions and using sensors to detect excess rain or arid conditions to cancel or initiate additional water cycles as needed. The team shared their research with several professors of biological, environmental and agricultural sciences from Oakwood University and Alabama A & M University.
They also shared their research with a professional engineer and a post-doctoral scholar of geriatric medicine from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Several of the professionals who reviewed the research commended the team for selecting a topic with significant humanitarian and global implications. They were also impressed with the scholarship demonstrated in the team’s research.
After the OAA team presented their research, they were asked several challenging questions that extended beyond the reported scope of their research. The OAA team impressed the judges by being able to answer all of the questions they were asked.
The team also competed in the Core Values presentation which had three components: The entire team was required to stand on a blanket and find a way to turn it over while all members remained on the blanket. This exercise was a surprise element designed to test the students’ sense of teamwork and “break the ice” before the formal presentation. The OAA team set a record by completing this task with the fastest time. The team had to design a core values poster that presented all the ways they exhibited the First Lego League core values throughout their entire robotics education and research experience. OAA Principal Gabriel Madrid volunteered to guide the team through the process of identifying and organizing content for the poster. Gabriel Madrid II and Jasmyn Vanterpool designed final posters, and team members presented the content of their poster at the competition.
The team had to recap the details of their research project. Since the team had already been judged for their research, they did not bring their presentation materials to the Core Values competition but was able to present their research a second time from memory.
Each component was followed by several questions from judges to authenticate the team’s efforts and their ability to present in a scholarly manner. At the end of the competition, the OAA team, in the company of approximately 25 teams, received first place for their Core Values presentation and third place for their Research Project.
This team of elementary and middle school students earned these distinctions while competing against many high school students. The competition is particularly challenging for new teams who often feel they are not ready to compete. This year several new teams dropped out in the final weeks leading up to the competition. The OAA team had similar ideas as the competition approached, but giving up is not in their DNA. The team did their best and God did the rest!
By Brandon Dent, teaches math and physics, and is the Oakwood Adventist Academy Robotics Coach.