High school robotics team aided by teachers’ union
THE MESSENGER-PRESS: Amy Batista
Debi Bella, President of Robbinsville Education Association, presented a check to the FIRST Robotics Team for $2,000 prior to the start of the meeting.
”We’re so excited to be able to make a donation to such a worthwhile program,” said Ms. Bella after the meeting.
This was the first time the REA has made a donation to the robotics team.
”We’re trying to expand our outreach programs,” Ms. Bella said. “It’s just great to see how far they’ve come and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”
Tom Staab, first vice president of the REA, was happy to support the team. “I’m glad to come back and see where the kids are now,” said Mr. Staab “It’s cool to see the next level of the program.”
Mr. Staab said the seniors coming through never had the opportunity to do robotics in the middle school, which was just started within the past few years.
Team advisors are Joy Wolfe and Scott Meredith, who are both technology teachers at the high school.
Joshua Falk, 17, of Robbinsville is the CEO of the 56-member team, which is broken down into different subsections.
”Our team is split up into half marketing and finance and the other half is build,” said Baljot Ranu, 16, of Robbinsville, CFO of the team.
According to Baljot, the team is set up “like a business.”
”We try to include almost like a Fortune 500 company – we have a build side and a then a working finance team,” Baljot said.
The team is looking to generate more interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among kids and have fun while doing it.
”Basically our goal of FIRST is to generate more interest and get more kids involved in science and technology,” said Joshua, who further noted that each year the team is assigned a different game or task and has six weeks to complete the challenge to build the robot.
”We compete over a few months,” Joshua said. “The past two years we’ve been really fortunate. We’ve done really well.”
The team has competed in Region Championships at Lehigh and at World Championships in St. Louis, Missouri.
”Last year we actually we won the Mid-Atlantic region and we were voted twelfth overall in the world,” Joshua said. “We’ve done really well recently and we are hoping to keep that up.”
The game this past year was “ultimate ascent,” which included shooting Frisbees into goals, which varied at different heights and for different point values and also included a metal pyramid the robot could climb for “bonus points.”
Baljot said there is a “strong” connection between the technology curriculum in the classroom and the robotics club that meets after school.
”For a lot of the build team members, we go through project lead the way courses at our school which is pre-engineering series of classes,” Joshua said. “We learn how to design, solve problems, introduction to engineering and things like that and how to use computer-aided design (CAD), which is the 3-D model.
”We are really lucky to have our school support as well as our sponsor support,” Baljot added.
Sponsors who support the team throughout the year include but are not limited to – Robbinsville Board of Education, Robbinsville Education Foundation, CCL Label, New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists, Siemens, Citibank, Elite Dental Care, Carfaro Inc, Gilbane, McGraw-Hill and Guam Incorporated.
We thought none of this was actually possible,” Baljot said. “That’s why we’re really lucky to have all of the support.”
The team is working on organizing a sponsor networking day.
”We love that day,” Baljot said. “Our sponsors get to come in and actually see what we’ve done and the support they’ve given us.
”Overall it has helped me so much,” she added. “I came into this team thinking I was going to build a robot and after the first week I saw a whole other side of it and I got interested in the marketing and finance.”
She said because of her experience with the team when she walked into her college interviews “she feels prepared” and that the interviewers take an interest in her being in an “interactive club.
”I get a real life experience,” Baljot added, as she explained how she is accountable for money and budgeting finances of the team unlike other clubs she is in.
For the students, working with people who work in the field doing it for a living find it “cool.”
”The coolest thing it is all student done and student run and mentor advised in addition to our two technology teachers who at the school but then people’s parents who engineers or programmers or in marketing who come by after school and help us,” Joshua said. “We are actually working with people who do this for a living. That’s really cool.”
In addition, to the REA contribution, Lockheed Martin also donated $2,000.