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Science and technology team introduces high school students across the Southeast to robotics

When some people think of BJU, perhaps the first things that come to mind are ministry training and fine arts. However, the BJU science and technology ministry team is changing that mindset by bringing the field of robotics into Christian school classrooms.

This semester’s team, consisting of four students and two leaders, travels to different Christian schools across the Southeast and teaches 7th through 12th grade students how to work with robots—LEGO® MINDSTORMS NXT, to be exact.

The team, led by BJU staff members Blake and Gina Nagengast, includes criminal justice major Nathanael Ferrari, math education majors Emily Schaal and Becca Knoll and math education and physical education major Zach Bruce.

Both Ferrari and Schaal said they first considered joining the team after a professor encouraged them to pursue the opportunity. After being on the team for more than two months, Ferrari said the experiences he has encountered have taught him how to work with junior high and high school students and pushed him to be more outgoing.

Both Schaal and Ferrari said they have particularly benefited from the unity and relationships built with the other team members.

Mrs. Nagengast said team membership is open to any student at BJU—regardless of his or her major—who enjoys working with technology or science and has a desire to minister to fellow teammates and students at the different schools.

This semester’s team began traveling on Aug. 11 and will return Nov. 16. Ferrari and Schaal said a typical week begins with the team’s attending church on Sunday morning, followed by a road trip to the next location. After attending church that night, the group meets with their host families who will be housing them for the night.

On Monday morning, the team members set up their equipment at the Christian school scheduled for that day. Once the students arrive, Mr. Nagengast presents a lecture on creativity and briefly introduces the robots. The junior or senior high students then begin the process of building and programming their robots’ movements in groups of two to four while the BJU team members work with each group to help with any problems.

Once the students complete and demonstrate their robots, the BJU team shares a video that tells students about the opportunities available at BJU. Later, the team gives away BJU paraphernalia and collects information cards with students’ names and addresses so additional information about BJU can be sent to the students.

With Monday’s work done, the team packs up and goes to a different school the next day. This pattern continues throughout the week until Saturday, when the team takes a much-needed break.

Although the team members enter the different Christian schools eager to help students learn about science and technology, they have a deeper goal in mind. “The first purpose is to represent Christ well,” Ferrari said. “After that, we want to represent the University well.”

Another purpose of the team, Schaal said, is to encourage the students to consider attending a Christian college.

Mrs. Nagengast said BJU’s science and technology team, in particular, presents the University in a different way than many students may expect. “People are used to [BJU] being known for music, preaching and fine arts,” she said.

However, this team helps junior and senior high school students see that BJU can equip them for a variety of fields and that they can serve Christ in these various careers. “You are in full-time Christian service as a believer, even if you are not vocationally,” Mrs. Nagengast said.