Robotics team triumphant

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The Steel Hawks placed 10th out of 63 teams in the NYC Regional US FIRST Robotics Competition, their highest standing to date.

For the sixth consecutive year, the THHS Robotics Team built a robot and programmed it to perform assigned tasks in order to compete in a game. Held at the the Jacob Javits Center March 7-9, this year’s competition was known as “Ultimate Ascent,” and focused on having robots get as many discs as possible into the goals of an opposing team. The Steel Hawks won six of their eight preliminary matches. They went as far as the quarterfinals, where they were the captains of a three-school alliance.

Reflecting on the team and their victories, Assistant Principal of Science, Math and Technology Susan Brustein said, “US FIRST Robotics Competition is an incredible adventure for students, mentors and coaches.  I am so proud of the dedication of our team, and of our graduates who return year after year to mentor the students who follow in their footsteps.”

Junior Annie Medina said, “Joining the Robotics Team this year was a big commitment, but it taught me the power of teamwork and being a leader in order to be successful. At the Jacob Javits Center, I was so proud and overjoyed by the amazing robot!”

During the six weeks it took to build the robots and prepare for the competition, students worked in groups to gain sponsors and raise funds. Under the guidance of Physics teacher Philip Jones and Mrs. Brustein, about thirty students of all grades worked six days a week, sometimes until late at night, to meet their goals.

Due to Hurricane Sandy and current economic conditions, the team lost funding from key sponsors, Mayor Michael Bloomberg being one of them. To address this issue, the team’s sponsorship group wrote letters to multiple companies seeking donations to keep the program running.  Students also hosted bake sales and sold LED energy efficient light bulbs to members of the school community.

Swathi Mettela, a sophomore who worked with the sponsorship group of the team, praised the work the group did, explaining that it taught her “valuable advertising, teamwork, and communication skills.”

For some members of the team, this competition represents their last as Townsend Harris students.

Senior Laura O’ Shea, Captain of the Steel Hawks, reminisced on her time with the team: “I joined robotics because of my brother. He had already been a member of the team for two years, and I thought that everything they did was so cool. Robotics was the most educational experience in my life.”

It seems, however, that one tradition for the Steel Hawks is to have former students return to help out.  This year college mentors Joel Pazhayampallil, Steven Seegobin and Alex Wallach all returned to advise the team.

Laura indicated that she’d be just as willing to play such a role:  “I definitely plan on coming back to mentor students next year, so it really isn’t the end.”