This week the middle school is buzzing with excitement—our robotics team is the 2019 South Carolina state champion in VEX Robotics and will move on to the world championship in April. That tremendous win comes in only our second season of middle school robotics competition—a competition with few private or Christian schools participating. Here is a mother’s account from Christy Hand of the robotics team and the benefit of her son’s involvement.
When this school year began, the middle school was just starting its second year of robotics. Last year was a learning year for the students and faculty, pointing out potential for growth and the need for more training. Mr. Tim Jones, the robotics leader, was able to go through intensive training during this past summer, getting him ready to lead not only the after-school team but also a daily elective course as well.
Our teams went into the early season competitions hoping to place in the top 20, but God blessed their efforts and the teams were able to rank much higher than that each time. It is hard to explain how fast-paced and exciting a robotics tournament can be. The day starts with four teams at a time playing in qualification rounds, and the top 16 teams then make alliances for the final tournament. Team, driver skills, and player interviews also influence the rankings and awards. Tournaments have approximately 32–50 teams. BJA is one of the few private or Christian schools in the state to compete.
We call the two BJA robots Ralphie, run by the six Light Brigade teammates, and Alphie, run by the six Alpha and Omega boys. Here are some highlights of their season.
- Ralphie stayed in the top 10 in each tournament in which it participated.
- Alphie continued to improve, even winning one tournament.
- Beyond everyone’s expectations, both teams made it to the state championship.
- After 74 qualification rounds at the state championship, Ralphie was number 1 and Alphie was number 14.
- Multiple teams did not want to risk their win on an unknown team so refused an alliance with us, but our #1 Ralphie was able to choose just the team God had for them and show humility as well as kindness to a lower ranked team.
- The final round ended in a tie, a first for the state championship, and had to be replayed. The final score, though, was definitive with a 21-10 win for Ralphie.
- Ralphie/The Light Brigade won a chance to attend the VEX Robotics World Championship in Kentucky in April.
Opportunities abound at BJA, but finding the opportunities that are God’s best plan for your child can be daunting. The robotics team has been the right fit for my son as he has had a chance to work with a team to use the hands-on skills he has always enjoyed. I have appreciated the close connection he has been able to make with the faculty coaches, Tim Jones and Dan Nelson. The competitions have provided a chance to point out God’s provision of strength in our weakness and His blessing when we are faithful to Him.