Marsha Bartulec – Erie, Colorado … The Vista Ridge Academy (VRA), in Erie, Colorado, middle school EnginEagles Robotic Team traveled to Orlando, Florida, to compete in the First Lego League National Competition hosted by Adventist Robotics, May 5.

As the team arrived in Orlando, anticipation and excitement filled the air. This was Vista Ridge Academy’s first appearance at the national-level competition, a culmination of months of dedication and hard work. Amidst the bustling atmosphere of the competition venue at Forest Lake Academy in Apopka, Florida, the team remained focused, yet nervous, eager to put their skills and innovation to the test along with 29 other talented teams from across the nation.

The team began their competition day presenting their “Innovation Project”: “It was nerve-wracking going into the innovation project presentation with three judges watching us,” says an eighth-grade EnginEagles team member. “I think we did pretty good.”

The teams’ “Innovation Project” includes a virtual reality travel experience utilizing the Disney inspired halo tile. This experience would be available to anyone regardless of budget and mobility. Along with the “Innovation Project,” the competition also included “Gracious Professionalism,” “Robot Design,” and the “Robot Game.” In the “Robot Game,” the EnginEagles scored 340 in the first round, 350 in the second, and 380 in the final round.

While the overall results were eagerly awaited, the true victory lay in the bonds strengthened, the lessons learned, and the memories created. Reflecting on their journey, an eighth-grade EnginEagles team member expressed, “Walking into the competition today, we all knew we had a chance at it.”

The “Champions Award” went to Silver Botz Robotics Team from Silver Creek Adventist School in Morganton, North Carolina. The VRA team was excited to receive the “Engineering Excellence Award.” This award celebrates a team with an efficiently designed robot, an innovative product solution that effectively addresses the season challenge, and demonstrates great core values evident in all they do.

As part of their trip, students walked in the footsteps of space pioneers at the Kennedy Space Center. They also attended a local Seventh-day Adventist church, enriching their experience beyond the Robotics competition.

VRA leadership expresses their gratitude to the teachers, donors, and volunteers who have helped the Robotics program start this school year, and who have also helped the EnginEagles attend both the regional and national competitions.

In the end, as the team bid farewell to Orlando and travelled home, they carried with them more than their trophy and accolades. They carried the spirit of exploration, teamwork, and the memories of an adventure that transcended the boundaries of competition.

—Marsha Bartulec is principal at Vista Ridge Academy. Photos by Annmarie Duran and Dannelle Stratton.