Darfur refugee stars in school team at robotics competition

A Muslim refugee from Darfur in western Sudan is a leading light on a Haifa area high school team participating in the regional qualifying round of the international FIRST Robotics Competition. Adam, 16, who was jailed for entering Israel from Egypt illegally after fleeing the genocide in Darfur, is part of a team of 18 science students and three educators from the Yemin Orde Youth Village on Mount Carmel taking part in the competition at Tel Aviv's Yad Eliahu arena. Adam and a friend were released from detention and were accepted to Yemin Orde. A member of the Fur ethnic group, he left his family behind and wandered through Africa, in the belief he and his friend were heading in the direction of Europe. Instead, they reached Egypt, and from there crossed into Israel, where they were jailed along with other Sudanese refugees for illegally entry. Yemin Orde is home to 500 at-risk and disadvantaged immigrant children from 16 countries - primarily Ethiopia, the former Soviet Union and Brazil. Despite having had little formal education, Adam and his friend excel at their studies and both are taking physics at the highest level for their matriculation exams. Yemin Orde is participating in the Robotics Competition for the first time, with the sponsorship of the Israel Navy Shipyards and long-time Yemin Orde supporter Barbara Wasserman Goldman and her husband, Mark Gelfand. As of Tuesday, Yemin Orde's rookie team was in 11th place out of the 34 teams that are participating in the Israeli section of the qualifying rounds - with a good chance of being among the five teams that will be chosen to represent the Jewish state in the championships in Atlanta later this year. The finals of the qualifying round are taking place on Wednesday. More than 32,500 high school students on 1,300 teams from Brazil, Britain, Canada, Israel, Mexico, the Netherlands and, for the first time, every state in the US, are taking part in this year's competition. The high schoolers have to design, develop and operate a robot, using parts provided, to perform a task formulated by the organizers. This year's game is titled "Rack 'N' Roll" because students have to build a robot capable of hanging inflated colored tubes on pegs fixed on a 3-meter high "rack" structure. The FIRST Championship, founded by US inventor Dean Kamen, is aimed at inspiring young people to pursue opportunities in science and technology. The first of the FIRST international competitions was held in 1992 with just 28 teams.