Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Mount Olive students lead a robotic 'Ocean Odyssey'


By Kevin Lechiski
January 20, 2006

Six area students between the ages of 12 and 15 recently had the opportunity to participate in a deep sea adventure like no other, building their very own robot that was able to perform tasks as complex as locating an ancient shipwreck and cleaning up a large cargo shipping accident.Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this sea adventure is that the students' robot, which was built entirely with LEGOs, never left the halls of Mount Olive High School while accomplishing its mission.

Thanks to three months of intensive preparation bounded by dedicated teamwork, these six home-schooled students from Warren and nearby counties earned second- and third-place finishes in the FIRST LEGO League "Ocean Odyssey" robotics competition last month, involving 42 other teams from throughout the area.

Team members have bonded, and now these friends are turning their attention toward future robotics competitions.

The team, coached by Vickey Daudelin of Independence Township, included sons, David and Jonathan Daudelin, along with Christopher and Sean Hunton of Vernon, Chase Billing of Green Township and Kyle Mahaney of Stroudsburg, Pa.

"There's a lot of teamwork involved," said Christopher. "It's not only about the building of the robot, but also presentation."

Their teamwork in both these areas showed, as their first-ever competition in Mount Olive ended with the students winning a second-place award for technical presentation and a third-place finish in the robot competition.

Tasks their robot had to be programmed to complete were intensive. On a large mat, serving as the ocean, the robot had to accomplish missions designed to address issues pertaining to ocean health, biodiversity and productivity. Through the "Ocean Odyssey," the students learned about ways to better protect and minimize negative impacts on the ocean.

The robot traveled to locations along the competition mat, where missions included deploying a submarine, locating an ancient shipwreck; servicing a pipeline and protecting a pump station, releasing a dolphin back into the sea, cleaning up a cargo ship accident and recovering archeological artifacts.

Coach Vickey praised the efforts of the six students, who got together for several hours every Friday for three months to craft the successful robot.

"The boys did all the work themselves," she said. "It's really a student-run team, which is very significant in terms of competition. They really took charge in how to build the robot, do the presentation and research. It was a wonderful experience for them."

The team's name, "Built on the Rock," was inspired by a Bible verse in the Gospel of Matthew, said David. The boys based their team name on it because the verse promotes an attitude of being gracious toward each another and toward the other teams, he said.

Staff Writer Kevin Lechiski can be reached at klechiski@njnpublishing.com or (908) 852-3397.


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