Steel Hawks land with grace in St. Louis


Photo by Phillip Fraczek

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EQUIPPED WITH Raptor, their 118-pound robot, the Townsend Harris Steel Hawks flew to St. Louis, Missouri and competed at the 2015 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition World Championship from April 22 through April 25. With over 600 teams competing from around the globe, the Steel Hawks pulled through and took home the Gracious Professionalism Award for the Galileo-Carson division.

Prior to the competition, the team participated in the quarter finals in New York from March 13 through March 15 and received the Engineering Inspiration award, which allowed them to advance to the World Championship.

With 2015 being the first year that the Steel Hawks competed at the World Championship, their expenses were an obstacle. The team worked hard to fundraise $1,795 online to support their trip to St. Louis. In addition, they held several in-school bake sales and breakfast fundraisers at Applebee’s in New Hyde Park and Flushing.

“This year in particular, we reached out more and more to the Townsend Harris community with bake sales and our Applebee’s fundraiser, and the response was incredible,” said junior team member and robot driver Marcus Barbu.

The Steel Hawks have spent on average 50 to 60 hours per week constructing their robot during building season. Even after the season is over, they continue working about 25 hours per week.

Senior team member and co-captain Neil Chen stated, “Many of us sacrificed time and effort in order to grow the team – not always to our liking – but ultimately, I think we’re all happy with the way this team has changed since our first year in it.”

Marcus commented, “Between the crazy hours of build season and all the time we spend together away from home at competitions, we really come to see each other as family.”

The team agrees that robotics is more than just building and competing. Neil commented, “Between community outreach, fundraising, robot building, leadership, and more, the team combines virtually every discipline imaginable into a single group of ambitious and eager people.

“We write grants and essays, do presentations, and make animations. We also started an entirely new subteam this year solely for videographers and photographers.”

“For people who like sports, [the] alliance section at competition works like a draft, and we have a dedicated team of scouts who focus on the statistics and abilities of every robot at the competition,” added Marcus.

With the team’s successful year coming to an end, the Steel Hawks are forming looking ahead. Sophomore team member Mitchell Mu commented, “I hope for this robotics team to be able to continue on its path of spreading STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) to the community and giving future engineers, inventors, artists, and leaders a starting point to their career[s].”

Neil remarked, “I hope we become more competitive and make ourselves a household name among the New York City robotics community. I’d like the team to return to Worlds again, and make an even bigger splash than we did this year.”