CamdeNerdz compete in LEGO competition


Photo by Alan M. Dumoff/More photos

camdenerdz-webThe CamdeNerz, consisting of students of the Catholic schools serving Camden City, stand behind their project in the LEGO robotics regional qualifying tournament held at Rowan University on Saturday, Dec. 5.

GLASSBORO — A team of self-described Catholic school nerds went to Rowan University on Saturday, Dec. 5, and won the Judges Award in a LEGO robotics competition.

The 10-person team — the “CamdeNerdz” — included students from the five Catholic elementary schools serving students in Camden City. They joined together for the first time to participate in the national LEGO robotics regional qualifying tournament.

The competiton presented real-world engineering challenges to students aged 9-14.

This year students were asked to research a transportation problem in their community and develop an innovative solution. Drawing on math, science, engineering, and technology skills, the students designed, built and programmed LEGO robots to respond to the challenge.

During the competition, each team presented their project to a panel of judges, participated in technical interviews about the robot design, and explained how the project responds to the particular challenge.

The members of the Camden Team were:

— Yoceline Tenorio and Elijah Hines, both seventh grade, from St. Anthony of Padua School,

— Johangeliz Febo and Samantha Thach, both eighth grade, from St. Cecilia School, Pennsauken,

— Lisa Hoang and Kimtom Vork, both sixth grade, from St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral School,

— Elodie Fofana and Tony Barr, both seventh grade, from Sacred Heart School, and

— Jamil Santiago, sixth grade, and Christian Colon, eighth grade, from Holy Name School.

The Camden team was sponsored by Mount St. Joseph Academy in Flourtown, Pa., which itself boasts an all girls robotics team. Their team, the Firebirds, which was formed 10 years ago, is only the second all girls team formed in the national competition and is now the longest running all girls team in the nation.

The formation of a single robotics team with representatives from all five Camden-area schools is the natural outgrowth of a larger initiative now underway to strengthen Catholic education in the nation’s most dangerous and impoverished city.

Last year the Diocese of Camden and the International Education Foundation (IEF) / CSDP formed the “Catholic School Partnership,” a major initiative that has brought together the expertise of top education, management, finance and advancement executives to strengthen the Catholic elementary schools that serve some of the most disadvantaged students in South Jersey. With the Partnership, the five schools, which together serve more than 1,000 students, have been brought under the direction of a five-person management team and a 12 person board of directors.

Sister Karen Dietrich, executive director of the Partnership, said, “We are providing a strong education for students in this struggling city through a first-rate education in the classroom, but we also want to provide opportunities outside the classroom that will expand horizons for these talented students. It is our hope that their participation for the first time in the robotics competition will encourage the value of team-work, apply critical-thinking skills they’ve learned in the classroom to real-life problems, and inspire today’s Camden city students to be the innovators of tomorrow.”