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Bronx stacks up at worldwide LEGO open

The I.S. 98 Herman Ridder Intermediate School’s robotics team recently returned home after representing the United States at the FIRST LEGO League Asian Open Invitational, in Tokyo Japan.

As one of only four U.S. teams to attend, and the only inner city school from America, 10 of the “Ridder Kids” were proud to represent their country, state and borough in the worldwide competition.

“As we adorned our uniforms throughout our travels people were inquisitive as to who we were and where we were competing,” I.S. 98 teacher and team chaperone Walter Morgan said. “To their surprise they couldn’t believe we were a Bronx robotics team.”

 Throughout the event, which was held April 27-29, the students also witnessed diversity among the other 57 competing teams.

“Meeting and interacting with hundreds of students from over 25 countries around the world will provide valuable experience in the future for the “Ridder Kids” when working with people of different cultures, nationalities etcetera,” team consultant Gary Israel said.

For one student, it was such diversity that immediately made him feel at home.

“Being from Haiti and knowing French allowed me to establish a relationship with the team from France,” student Carl Jules said, “I’ve been e-mailing them daily.”

The “Ridder Kids” competed in a series of timed missions that tested their robot’s abilities to handle various tasks. This year’s challenges were all modeled around the competition’s theme, “Power Puzzle,” which focused on energy management and conservation.

Among other challenges, the students were in charge of programming their LEGO robots to attach solar panels to homes, plant trees, build hydro-dams and install wind turbines.

The students also presented a research project, which student Azeem Yousaf said helped him further his own technological awareness on the topics of electricity usage and alternative energy.

Ridder team captain Sabrina Fletcher said this education was instrumental to their expanded understanding of the topic.

“Being exposed to other countries’ technology made me more aware of how alternative energy is currently used and how it better serves the environment,” she explained.

Team member Navindra Dewlall agreed saying, “The experience was great because of the different cultures we were exposed to and how they applied alternative energy to our world.”

The “Ridder Kids” were among the top 19 teams to score a perfect 400 points in their first round of competition, and ranked in the top third overall.

“Everyone congratulated us and welcomed us,” Morgan said. “Many international teams approached us and shared that they read about our successes back home.”

The team looks forward to begin working toward their future successes, including a new slate of competitions next season. 

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