As the Caroline G. Atkinson Intermediate School students hovered over their “clawbot,” they ran through a set of new computer codes to improve the robot’s gripping ability during the fifth annual Robotics Competition at Freeport High School last Saturday.
The Atkinson team was the youngest squad to compete, and despite being ranked 30th of 35 teams, the 11- and 12-year-olds said they were excited simply to be at the tournament.
Before the competition, the team spent five weeks building and developing a micro-controlled robot to complete specific tasks and face off against 34 other robotics teams from 18 schools and community groups. Contestants, most of them in middle school or high school, came from across Long Island, New York City and Westchester County.
Vex Robotics recently released “Turning Point,” a robotics game played by the contestants on a 144-square-foot mat, Freeport High School junior Ola Aroso, 16, explained. Competitors score points by toggling (moving or raising) flags and parking their robots in various positions.
Clarissa Negron, 11, of the Atkinson School, admitted that she and her teammates were nervous at the contest. “Everyone was taller than me,” she said with a laugh.
Sixth-grader Leah Awalom, 12, said that although she felt intimidated by the older kids, the experience was eye-opening and provided her with ideas on how to improve the team’s robot for next year’s competition.
Finally getting the clawbot’s grip to work, Chase Holt, 11, threw his arms in the air with a sigh of relief. “I’m grateful for this opportunity,” Chase said. “It just shows that young people can still do great things.”
Aside from the team from Atkinson, the competition included six Freeport High robotics club teams and two J.W. Dodd Middle School squads. Among the three schools, at least 30 students competed, developing robots using concepts from electrical engineering, coding and mathematics. The teams constructed bases for their robots using circuitry and frame components and programmed their remote controllers, which looked like the devices used for video games.
Freeport High students mentored their Dodd counterparts over the past five months as they developed their robots. Yenifer Tiburcio-Jerez, president of the high school’s club, said she was amazed at the creativity and ingenuity the younger students exhibited. Working with them, she said, also provided her with insight into how to improve her team’s robots.
This year, the Freeport High School Robotics Club Team D had the highest scored among district teams and made the quarterfinals in Saturday’s tournament. The squad is ranked 28th in New York state. In two weeks, team members will learn whether they will be invited to attend the state championships in March at East Rockaway Junior-Senior High School.