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Robo Team Takes Title

Local high school students are robo-tops.

The Massapequa High School Robotics Team, Robo Chiefs, will compete in its first VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, California, April 23 through 26. The team earned the chance to compete on a global scale, against 800 teams from 26 countries, after winning the Southern New York State Championship held at Adelphi University.

The VEX Robotics Competition, presented by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, challenges middle and high school students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) to compete in an engineering challenge in the form of a game. Teams use the VEX Robotics Design System to build robots designed to score the most points possible.

Team members Shane Murphy, Liam Byrnes-Cunningham, Robert DePietro, Richard Gordonson, Christina DeLuca, Brian O’Sullivan, Sarah Goklevent and Adam Carrero are excited to bring Massapequa to the world championship.

“The team’s biggest strengths are cooperation, teamwork and dedication,” said coach Brian Vanek. “I knew that, as long as the students continued to work together, they would be great at the state competition. But even more important than the trophies are the teamwork, cooperation, problem-solving skills and robot-designing skills the students develop; and they have done a fantastic job already this year.”

Regionally, the Robo Chiefs won the championship title and the Design Award at the VEX Robotics Competition at East Rockaway High School. They also took first place at the Adelphi University Toss Up Qualifier with a final round score of 47-0 and won the Tournament Champions Award as well as the highest judges’ award, the Excellence Award.

The Massapequa School District nurtures students’ interest in robotics as early as elementary school with introductory lessons in the district’s academically gifted program, Magnet. In middle school, every student receives an introduction to robotics in seventh- and eighth-grade technology education classes. Robotics clubs at the middle and high school levels are offered during the school year and a one-week camp for middle schoolers is provided over the summer and coached by Vanek. The high school level also offers robotics as part of the Principles of Engineering course and the Product Design and Engineering (Robotics) course, and is introduced in the Digital Electronics course.

According to Susan Thompson, chairperson of Career & Technology Education for the district, two areas of technology that will have a major impact on the future, are robotics and 3D printing.  

“Many students take the step to join the middle or high school robotics teams and take advanced courses beginning with Design & Drawing for Production in ninth grade,” Thompson explained. “In this course students learn to draw in a 3D modeling program and prototypes are printed on a 3D printer. By creating parts and building and programming robots, these students are not only developing creativity, innovation and collaboration skills, they are developing a lifelong, success mindset. That was so obvious to me as I watched our team compete. They were in a hyper-strategizing and problem-solving mode throughout the day. Their focus and hard work paid off with a fantastic win.”