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Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Bionic Bulldogs take community-serving technology all the way to states


For the first time in the school’s history, Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s robotics teams, the Bionic Bulldogs, are headed to Hershey for the 2023-24 First Lego League (FLL) Pennsylvania State Championships. 

Ranking in the top 9% of 368 teams in Pennsylvania, their hard work is motivated by innovation and kindness.  Though officially named the Bionic Bulldogs, OLMC science teachers and coaches, Mary Ann Alcaro and Barb Villalba, call the team members “Warriors of Empathy.”  

“We spend so much time talking about the negative effects of technology on teenagers,” Alcaro said, “and while there is some truth to that, we want our students to focus on the ways they can use technology for something bigger than themselves. The Core Values of FLL – Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork, and Fun – drove our theme this year of creating a Masterpiece that allowed us to share a favorite hobby with the world.  What if we could also use these values to impact our communities locally and globally through the lens of empathy?” 

Armed with grants from Schneider Electric, Inc. and local companies like Poretta & Orr, the Bulldogs embarked on an ambitious task – building Biomechanical Limbs and Raspberry Pi/Arduino Floor Pianos.  The “Empowering Limb Loss Survivors’’ innovation project aims to provide a life-changing opportunity for an underserved child by developing a custom prosthetic hand. The Therapeutic Raspberry Pi/Arduino Floor Pianos’ will allow children with disabilities and the elderly to play music with their feet. The initiative will engage middle school students, guided by skilled robotics alumni from area high schools, to utilize biomechanics and modern technology in 3D printing to design and fabricate the prosthetic hand and components for the floor piano.  

Students will participate in a two-step process. First, they will be interviewed by professional judges about their innovation projects.  Next, the teams will run their robot Spike Prime design on a table to complete up to 15 missions in 2.5 minutes.   The students hope that their innovation projects and robot designs will spur them forward to the FLL Worlds Competition in April in Houston, Texas.  

Alcaro and Villalba joined Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in 2019 as middle school science teachers and inherited the robotics team as an after-school club. A school focus has been expanding the STREAM program, which includes the development of OLMC’s now award-winning robotics team.  In the last four years, the Bionic Bulldogs have won the Engineering Excellence Award, Champion’s Award, Innovation Project, Core Values, and Motivate Award and made their way to regionals three years in a row.

The Bionic Bulldogs will head to states on March 8 in Hershey – you can find updates on the competition on the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Facebook page. 

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