After World Championship, the THHS Steel Hawks reflect on their season

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From late night practices to early morning boba sales, the Townsend Harris Steel Hawks robotics team (FRC 2601) has completed their competition season. At the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition World Championship in late April, the team’s final competition, the Steel Hawks placed 16th out of the 76 teams in their division.

Leading up to the event, the Steel Hawks attended three regional competitions in Long Island, Manhattan, and Albany in the past few months. For their efforts in these competitions  the season, the team won the Excellence in Engineering Award, the Entrepreneurship Award twice, the Wildcard Award, and also finished first in the Albany regional competition which secured them a spot at the Worlds competition in Houston, Texas. 

However, behind every victory, the team also faced many unprecedented challenges, one of which was the years lost to the pandemic. The robotics 2019-2020 season was cut short and 2020-2021 season was marred by COVID, meaning the seniors leading the team had only one and a half years of in-person experience, while the juniors had only half a year of experience. However, the team was able to overcome this setback, making up for the lost time. Junior Lucas Havens said, “’I’m the most proud of how we were able to have our best season yet after losing so much experience due to COVID.”

The team also faced various financial challenges due to rising expenses. However, they managed to raise funds through various fundraising efforts, including bubble tea, hot chocolate, and coffee sales each morning. This money went towards resources for building the robot and paying for transportation to and from the competition. The team also set up a fundraiser for the Worlds Championship that generated over $6,000. The fundraiser helped to lower the individual cost of participating in each competition.

Finally, the team faced various technical difficulties. Sophomore Jie Xuan Tang said, “We were very behind schedule with our building of the robot. When we went to New York Tech Valley Regional in Albany, we didn’t have a functioning robot yet.”

However, the team was able to persevere through this challenge. “It was really just a testament to our capabilities. When we got there our robot wasn’t even fully functioning and so to go from that to winning the entire regional really made all the long nights worth it,” said senior and head of communications Karan Ajmera.

Reflecting on the season, many team members expressed their gratitude  for the opportunities that participating in Steelhawks have given them. Sophomore Shannon Jackman said, “I became so interested in engineering and the competitions itself and it really changed what I want to do with my life in the future.”

In addition to problem-solving skills, sophomore Sami Sharif said that he learned the significance of planning and preparing, but also the importance of being adept. “In Robotics, when something doesn’t work, we figure it out ourselves. There’s no one that could tell us all of the answers to everything. We have to figure it out ourselves,” he said.

Through challenges and successes, the Steel Hawks emphasized the camaraderie of the team. “I absolutely love this team and the people in it. I’ve met and befriended so many people and some of them have become my best friends,” said sophomore Zarah Masud.

Karan said, “I think we’ve left the team with a lot of new understanding which I hope they can continue to use and so overall it was really rewarding especially for the seniors.”