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Robodawgs Put Island Trees On The Map

The Robodawgs robotics team—a group of five intellectual Island Trees High School students—were given a warm welcome home, after taking first place in the Incredible Bionic Man challenge. The regional competiton, sponsored by the Smithsonian Channel and Cablevision, put the Robodawgs up against some of the best and brightest from 10 different states and Washington D.C., with the goal of creating a working bionic body part out of common household items. 


According to the team’s advisor, Dr. Andrew Sass, the group was first inspired to enter the contest after attending a presentation at Half Hallows High School, last October, where the students were able to meet the researchers behind the Increidble Bionic Man. He said that when people ask why the group of high schoolers decided to enter the contest by building a bionic arm-hand combination—a robotic body part that researchers said was the most challenging to construct—that he would reply much the same way as George

Mallory did when he climbed Mt. Everest. “Because it was there,” Sass said. 


Faced with their personal Everest, the Robodawgs robotics team constructed a working arm-hand combination using a CPR dummy, aluminum materials, a 12-volt motorcycle battery, and other household items. Once the bionic arm was up and running, the Island

Trees team submitted a two minute video showcasing their process of designing, building and demonstrating the arm-hand combination, which vaulted the Robodawgs into a finalist position. 


Picked as one of four teams to compete in the final round, the Island Trees students pit their bionic arm against students from Bloomfield High School, N.J., Eastern Technical High School in Baltimore, Md., and Montgomery Blair High School in Montgomery, Md., for a chance at winning a $5,000 grand prize. 


“We were very doubtful we were going to win,” said Robodawgs teammate Ben Wiener, an Island Trees High School sophomore.


After learning that they had advanced to the final round, Wiener, and fellow Robodawgs Matt Bacotti, Rob McCoy, Chris Schmidt, and Captain Marc Lubniewski, traveled to Washington D.C. for the final judging and award presentation at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. 


“Our initial reaction was shock... they announced it so fast,” said Lubniewski, an Island Trees senior. “It was one of those heart dropping moments.” 


At the ceremony, which was simulcast in 27 county Cablevision service areas, the Robodawgs were presented with a big check for $5,000 in college scholarships, which the team will split amongst themselves. The students were also treated to a visit from the

Incredible Bionic Man, fresh off his two month stay at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. 


Upon their return home to Levittown, the Robodawgs were greated with certificates from Superintendent Dr. Charles Murphy and the Island Trees Board of Education.


“We’re ecstatic about it,” Murphy said. “Dr. Sass is unbelievable... most people his age are retired, but he is just getting started.”