May 25, 2024
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May 25, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Lower Schools Come Together to Compete In CIJE Tournament

Yavneh Academy for the win!

Hundreds of students representing 82 teams from 14 schools competed at the CIJE Vex Robotics Tournament on Wednesday, April 10, at Manhattan Day School. While there were many impressive displays by teams throughout the day, the masterclass by the teams from Yavneh Academy (Paramus, NJ) was the prevailing storyline of the event.

Due to most Vex tournaments being held over weekends (and therefore over Shabbat), competing is an issue for the Jewish community. That’s where the Center for Initiatives in Jewish Education (CIJE) steps in to make amazing events like this one possible.

Created in 2001, CIJE coordinates educational programs in more than 175 Jewish schools across the country. Those programs impact the learning of more than 45,000 students each year.

In this case, CIJE invited elementary school teams from all types of Jewish schools to compete in this year’s championship.

The CIJE Robotics League challenges students to work in teams throughout the school year to build robots that compete in multi-school tournaments, culminating at this event. Students learn advanced programming, mechanical building, teamwork, and problem solving through the process of building their robots and competing.

The elementary school division was a pilot program for CIJE last year. While only a few schools were able to compete, it was a big success that warranted expansion. This year, the event was bursting at the seams and the competition was fierce.

This year’s challenge involved an underwater theme where the two teams and their robots had to cooperate to accomplish various tasks. Some were simple (like realigning a “pipe” by pushing it back into place) and others were difficult (like carrying a “sensor” all the way across the playing field and depositing it atop an “underwater volcano”). This made for an interesting scoring rubric which necessitated added communication and cooperation between teams.

If that sounds complicated, it was. And that’s kind of the idea. In the time allotted to them, the teams could not possibly accomplish all the goals. With that being the case, they had to strategize to determine which challenges were worth the effort in order for their team to score the most points. With all of the students participating via after school clubs, time was the biggest constraint. Determining what strategy to take was not limited to what to act on during each round, it meant figuring out what kind of robot to build and what to spend time practicing.

Yavneh’s robotics team is an after school club that works in cooperation with the Teach NJ STEM Initiative. Fourth and fifth graders have an elective as their last period of the day and many choose to enter the STEM program. The teachers that come to teach those STEM classes stay to do after school extracurriculars, one of which is the robotics club.

The school brought six teams with them to the competition. Five of those six teams accounted for the majority of the top of the leaderboard. Elana Goldsmith, the coach of the team, was very proud of how her students competed.

“I am in awe of the team,” Goldsmith said about her students. “They have worked incredibly hard from the start of the school year to learn how to build and program their robots.”

The team that finished in first place was the fifth grade duo of Joey Hooper and AJ Weinstock. Their average score was higher than what most teams were able to score in a single round. With the lack of playoffs in the elementary school format, the average score is what determines the winners.

“Being part of this robotics team is very cool and it teaches you teamwork and how to use robots,” said Weinstock.

With STEM options increasing in schools everywhere, CIJE’s role to help facilitate corresponding growth in Jewish day schools is greater than ever. Their goal is to be there for whatever is next for the future in STEM education, and events like these demonstrate how happy the students are that CIJE is there to help them expand their educational horizons.

Place Team Average Score
1 Yavneh Academy (NJ) 9.40
2 Yavneh Academy (NJ) 8.80
T3 Yavneh Academy (NJ) 8.00
T3 SAR Academy (NY) 8.00
T3 Mercaz Academy (NY) 8.00
6 Yavneh Academy (NJ) 7.70
T7 Hillel Yeshiva (NJ) 7.40
T7 Yavneh Academy (NJ) 7.40
9 Kohelet Yeshiva (PA) 7.00
10 Hillel Yeshiva (NJ) 6.80


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