Robotics Team Wins National Championships


Massapequa High School’s robotics team can now add a national championship to its list of accomplishments. Students competed in the CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship in Council Bluffs, Iowa from April 2-7.

The Robo Chiefs were tournament champions in the Open Division along with Beijing Bayi High School from Beijing, China and DC West Community Schools in Valley, Nebraska. Massapequa was part of a three-team alliance, in which two robots from the group compete in a given match against a pair of robots from another alliance.

Competing team members included seniors Victoria Bal, Emily Clugston, Dana Colletti, Evan Donohue, Billy Dougherty, Jessica Monaghan and Alex Schmadtke, under the direction of robotics team advisers Matthew Swanson and Brian Vanek. The students spent several months working after school to build and perfect their robot, repeatedly testing it in the practice ring across from the robotics classroom. During the competition, they had to move mobile goals, which look like cones, into point zones and stack smaller cones on top.

“It was really a fun experience, how people from all different areas can come together for a friendly competition,” Dougherty said. “Our robot performed well and it was a really great way for us to end our time in the robotics club.”

“You see so many different ideas,” added Bal of the competition. “It’s cool to see how everyone can approach the same goal in a different way.”

Schmadtke and Dougherty operated the controls during the tournament. They explained that there were a lot of mechanisms that all had to work simultaneously on the robot, making it a very challenging task.

Members of the robotics team say several of the courses they have taken in high school were beneficial including robotics, principles of engineering, automotive maintenance, computer aided design and introduction to JavaScript. Success in the competition required strong knowledge in both constructing and programming their robot. Colletti explained that she had to write several hundred lines of code.

The Robo Chiefs qualified for the national competition because of their performance at the Vex Robotics zone regional qualifier at Adelphi University in January. They also participated in competitions throughout the season at Farmingdale High School, Freeport High School, East Rockaway High School and The Harvey School in Katonah. At the Vex regional qualifier at East Rockaway, the Robo Chiefs received the Excellence Award, which is given to the top overall team recognizing robot performance and design, teamwork and professionalism.

Swanson and Vanek said that the national championship is a testament to the hard work and preparation of the students.

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