Sewanhaka robotics team advances to world championships

Michael Florio

Four students from the Sewanhaka Central High School District and their robot are headed to the first Tech Challenge World Championship in St. Louis on April 22 through April 25.

The club, made up of students from five local high schools, will get to compete in the championship after going 7-2 in the round robin competition and placing 5th from among 72 teams at the Super-Regional Championships, hosted at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania.

Of the 72 teams competing, the top 25 advanced to the championship in St. Louis, according to the club’s advisor, Jack Chen, an instrumentation and automation teacher at Sewanhaka High School.

The club, made up of Otto Martinian, a sophomore at Sewanhaka High School, James Bonner, a sophomore at Elmont Memorial High School, Steven Belez, a junior at H. Frank Carey High School and Johnson Uwamanzu-Nna a senior at Elmonth High School, built the robot together after school.

“It is great to see these kids from different schools come together,” Chen said.

The club competed in the cascade effects competition, in which the robot they built and control gathers two different size wiffle balls — one the size of a softball and one the size of a golf ball. There are 40 softball-sized wiffle balls in play and 80 golf ball-sized ones.

The goal is to gather the balls and stack them in tubes, which vary in heights of 30 centimeters, 60 centimeters and 90 centimeters The teams stack the ball into the tubes and receive points depending on how high the balls stack in the tubes. The taller the tube, the higher the points per each centimeter, with teams being rewarded one point per centimeter in the 30 centimeter tube, two points in the 60 centimeter tube and three points in the 90 centimeter tube.

“You get points for every centimeter you fill the tube,” Chen said. “Students have to have a good strategy cause the larger ball will fill up the tube more than the smaller ones.”

Each match is played with two teams of two competing. Partners are randomly selected and each partner receives the total amount of points that the team scores. After the competition the teams who compiled the most points are named. “Your partner in one game could be your competition the next,” Chen said.

In St. Louis, only one team will be awarded as champion, but Chen said the judges also award prizes for teamwork and robot design. He added that he is not sure what the prizes awarded will be, but knows they will not be monetary.

“You are competing for bragging rights,” he said.

He said the students also gain a strong grasp on robotics and a leg up on college applicatioins.

Uwamanzu-Nna, he noted, will begin studying Engineering at  Cornell University next fall.

To reach the championship the club had to go through several competitions.

The club won a local qualifier held at Francis Lewis High School before going on to a New York City and Long Island regional competition held at NYU School of Engineering, which gave them the opportunity to compete in Scranton.

Chen said that the students are looking forward to the competition and plan to compete again in the future, with a new robot that they build

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Michael Florio

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