This story is from The Daily Journal  | Jodi Streahle

BRIDGETON – South Jersey Robotics hosted its second Robot Run in Bridgeton City Park on Saturday to support robotics programs in the southern counties of New Jersey.

More than 200 runners and walkers signed up this year, doubling last year’s participation and proceeds, said Barb Kuleba, race organizer.

“We started doing this last year as a way to raise money for these kids to be able to compete at a higher level and to be able to fund scholarships for kids who wouldn’t normally be able to afford to be part of a robotics teams,” said Kuleba.

Robotics programs are hard to come by, and there is only one school in South Jersey that has a robotics team, said Kuleba. “We found out about South Jersey Robotics, and it has been a life-changer,” she said.

South Jersey Robotics is open to students in kindergarten through 12th grade with four different program levels. They concentrate their efforts in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties, but members come from throughout the area, including Cape May and Camden counties. The teams meet in workshops at Salem Community College and at STEAMWorks in Bridgeton.

“It’s not just about the robots. It’s about building 21st century skills in communication, in community service, in public speaking, marketing and business. It builds confidence,” said Rosanne Danner, founder of South Jersey Robotics. “They come in as freshmen and they are very shy and quiet and by the time they leave, they are leaders. It’s an amazing thing to watch and that’s why we do this. It’s to build 21st century skills, especially in rural communities.”

When Maria Mathew, 17, of Woolwich joined the LuNaTeCs Team, she was the only girl on the team, and she was intimidated. Since then, she has grown. “It taught me that some things are intimidating, but it’s so worth it just to try. There are so many personal things it helped me overcome. It helped me find my passion. I learned to work with others to make your vision become life,” said Mathew.

Alden Rowlyk, 10, of Swedesboro is on Team LunaBots. His team challenge this year focuses on animal allies. It’s perfect for him because he is already gaining experience in the field he wishes to pursue as a career — prosthetic engineering for animals. His team built a wheeled carriage for a robotic pig that didn’t have back legs.

Noah Halstead, 17, of Lower Alloways Creek is a member of Team Velocity. He wishes more students would come out to the programs. “Anything you don’t know, the mentors can teach you,” he encouraged.

Jake Morris, 15, of Ridley, Pa., is a member of Team LuNaTeCs and hopes his participation will help him pursue education and a career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). “I’m laying the groundwork for scholarships,” he said.Before the race, participants gathered around two robots that were built by the older students in South Jersey Robotics. Visitors were invited to operate a robot built by Team Velocity that stacked bins and another robot built by Team LuNaTeCs that launched a ball.

Soon runners and walkers gathered at the starting line to embark on a 5K race, a 5K walk or a 2K family walk through City Park.

Trophies were awarded to overall winners. Prizes made and donated by STEAMWorks were awarded to the top finishers in various age groups.

The race was timed by TNT Event Management.

“The course was great. It was tough with a few inclines, but it was a nice race and I would do it again,” said Paul Testa of Millville who came out for his love of running and to support the cause.

For more information about South Jersey Robotics