Steel Hawks plan to go international

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The Robotics team, led by new coach and Physics teacher Joel Heitman, is planning to attend the Greater Toronto East Regional in Canada for the first time this school year, in addition to the annual New York City Regional. The team has already begun its preparation for the event and is eager to begin fundraising for supplies. If they go, they will be the only U.S. team present at the competition—the Steel Hawks will have to represent not only the school, but also the whole country.

Every year, the team competes in the USFIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) regional competitions, leading to National Championships in the spring. Each team must create a 120+ pound robot in six weeks to compete against each other in a variety of challenges that change every year—from playing basketball to even playing Ultimate Frisbee.

Robotics member and lead designer Jan Pazhayampallil said,  “the Toronto Regional is a way for us to practice and learn from the games we will play. A huge part of the competition is plenty of practice.”

Mr. Heitman agreed, explaining that “participation in another formal event will bring growth and improvements to [the] team.”

Attending the competition will be a great honor, Robotics member and lead programmer Neil Chen, junior, stated: “One of the most successful teams worldwide will be attending the same competition in Canada, so we expect to learn a great deal. We’re the only team in the United States to have registered for the Canadian competition thus far, and we’re working hard this year to meet our expectations.”

Because the Toronto Regionals will cost a lot of money, the team has already started brainstorming fundraising ideas.

“I think our team will be able to meet the monetary goal because we are all working together on fundraising and developing connections with possible sponsors,” says Rafal Chudzik, the vice president of the Robotics team.

Annual fundraisers held by the Robotics team include bake sales and selling light bulbs.

This year, members have decided to contact big companies, such as Magellan, an aerospace manufacturer. Normally, “our team uses ‘80/20,’ a simple material that rookie teams usually use,” Jan explains. But this year, with Magellan as a sponsor, the team is hoping to completely get rid of this 80/20 material and make robots from scratch, thereby improving the efficiency and overall quality of the robot.

The team is also hoping to raise money in a video competition by Rockwell Automation.

Aside from sponsors, the Robotics team has another advantage: it will be one out of many teams using software beta testing, which tests the software libraries and tools before they get released to the public.

With all of this in mind, Neil is “confident in the ability of the robotics team to contend with established teams this year.”

When asked if the team could rise up to the challenge of an international competition, Mr. Heitman affirmed, “There is no doubt that our students will rise to the challenge.”