Adventist Robotics League Winner Picks Mission Trip Over Competition

'Brick Boys' teammates Andrew Donesky (left) and David Hensel pose with the Director's Award they won for the overall performance of their robot. [Photos: courtesy of Southern Adventist University]Source: Adventist News Network

[April 30, 2007] "When you think about it, what's really going to matter in a hundred years? Do you want people to think back about you as winner of the Adventist Robotics League in 2007, or do you want them to think about how you [led them to Jesus]?" asked 13-year-old Andrew Donesky, commenting on his decision to skip the Adventist Lego League national championship exhibition and fly to Romania for a mission trip instead.

Donesky and fellow Lego enthusiast, 15-year-old David Hensel, make up the 'Brick Boys' team. Of the12 competing teams, the 'Brick Boys' won the Director's Award at the second annual Adventist Robotics League (ARL) Southern Challenge on April 15, earning 318 out of a possible 400 points based on their robot's mission, design and programming.

Hosted by Seventh-day Adventist-owned Southern Adventist University's School of Computing, the ARL Southern Challenge--one of several regional ARL competitions--invites middle school students to design, build and program autonomous robots from Lego bricks and a motor. Each team competes by running a robot through a challenge course that poses real-world problems and requires imaginative solutions based on math, science and technology.

Donesky credits his team's win to their focus on simple mechanics. The competition's one-motor-per-robot limit meant the 'Brick Boys' had to find creative ways to complete such tasks as moving dirt molecules and releasing a magnet. "We really focused on mechanics [and] put a lot of thought into it. It's not just a competition [for us]," Donesky, who plans to study mechanical engineering in college, told ANN in an interview.

This isn't the first time Donesky and his 'Brick Boys' team has won the Director's Award. It also isn't the first time Donesky has opted out of the final competition to participate in a mission trip. The home school student has already traveled to Romania, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Tanzania with the team from ShareHim, an outreach ministry of the Carolina Conference, one of the Adventist church's regional offices in the southern United States. There are no age or experience limits for ShareHim participants. "Pretty much if you can talk and want to share Jesus, you can go and help out," he says.

Donesky says he knew about the mission trip to Romania "way back when we were building the first robot model. At that point, we didn't know if we'd win, but I had to decide between the [mission trip and the competition] then." In the event they won, Donesky made provisions for a substitute team member to represent the 'Brick Boys' at the nationals, where the winning teams from each of the five North American regions will compete.

Donesky told ANN that he hopes more young people will get involved in sharing Christ, even if it means passing up a few other events. He also encourages them to join the Adventist Robotics League, a message that's easier to get across these days. "Now that we've won two years in a row, everyone wants to be on our team!"

The Adventist Robotics League partners with FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Lego League International, which was developed to integrate more robotics technology into middle school students' education.

ARL allows Adventist middle-schoolers to compete in a similar program without Sabbath conflicts. Tyson Hall, who organizes ARL's Southern Challenge and is a computing professor at Southern Adventist University, says ARL also holds its tournaments later in the school year to "encourage teachers to incorporate the robotics into their math and science curriculum" and give students more time to work on the project. Hall adds that despite the modifications, all ARL events are fully recognized by FIRST Lego League. For more information, visit http://www.adventistlegoleague.net.