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Faith fuels ingenuity for pair of robotics teams

The “Drop of Faith” team, composed of Christ the King Catholic School fifth-graders Shelby Lovejoy, Sara Dietsch and Madeleine Marlowe, placed second with its water filtration robot at the Dallas Diocesan Robotics Competition at St. Monica Catholic School on April 4.

By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic

The fifth-grade robotics students at Christ the King Catholic School delighted their teachers when the class focused on faith to drive the creation of two vastly different inventions with the same moorings in service and sharing.

The “Drop of Faith” team (Shelby Lovejoy, Sara Dietsch and Madeleine Marlowe) engineered a robot that could filter dirty water while transporting it—an initiative to help people in parts of the world that lack clean water.

The “Anna’s Wish” team (Mia Bove, Dani O’Sullivan, Kora Blue, and Lily Cicardo) devised a robot to aid and comfort young chemotherapy patients.

The fruitful convergence of faith and utility produced a second place for Drop of Faith and a fourth place for Anna’s Wish in the Dallas Diocesan Robotics Competition at St. Monica Catholic School on April 4.

But the students said that their robots represented the blessings of service and the value of aiming to make a difference.

The “Anna’s Wish” team, which incudes Mia Bove, Lily Cicardo, Kora Blue and Dani O’Sullivan, devised a robot to aid and comfort young chemotherapy patients. They are pictured with Carol Basso, the mother of Anna Basso, a young cancer patient who died in 2011 and provided the inspiration for the team’s efforts.

Kasey Dow, who oversees the robotics class and is the school’s teacher for SOAR (Students with Outstanding Ability in Reading), said that she admired the students’ desire to fuel their inventions with compassion and not think of their robots in a materialistic manner.

“Both groups came up with ideas that were really fulfilling our mission at Christ the King—thinking of others and sharing our gifts,” said Dow, who has taught at the school since 1983. “The biggest thing was putting themselves out there and thinking of ways to change the earth.”

The students worked on bringing their inventions from the imagined stage, through mission statements, design, construction and presentation since December. The ideas, however, began to blossom in the past few years.

The Drop of Faith team decided to focus on building a robot that could help save lives where clean water is scarce because team members said that they found it overwhelming that more than 663 million people lack clean water all their lives.

Anna’s Wish team members said that they drew inspiration from their fourth-grade “Crusaders Care” community service project that paid tribute to the late Anna Basso, who died in 2011 after a diagnosis of Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.

Basso’s mother, Carol, visited Christ the King students last year to tell them about the charity she had started in her daughter’s honor—“Anna’s Closet,” which provides a special hospital area with games and pastimes geared to older children undergoing chemotherapy.

The students, who had created chemo care packages in fourth grade, said that they brainstormed about inventing a robot to power a game that would be agreeable to young people who perhaps were suffering some of chemo’s side effects, such as dizziness and mood changes.

The Anna’s Wish robot interacts in a germ-free manner. It moves randomly in its field of play while a chemo patient can try to get ping pong-like balls into three cups.

Mary Melle, the school’s Academics and Special Projects coordinator who oversees the Crusaders Care program, said that she loved seeing how the students carried what they learned from their service project last year into a new arena this year.

“I was very touched,” she said. “That tells me that what we’re doing is really working.”