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A Pitch for Robotics Funding

Posted on 13 June 2010

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By Francesca Normile

Standing off to the side in the Pierson High School Library during the Monday night school board meeting were three men, two boys and one robot. While the board worked through the agenda, Sam Miller and Adrian Pickering, sophomores from Pierson’s Robotics Team, fiddled with joysticks and a line of small monitors. While they waited to give their demonstration, so did Number 28, a mechanical tower sitting patiently with the team behind a shelving unit.

The Robotics Team— whose members consider themselves a sort of sports team — meet regularly in a collaborative group. The team has a designated “Official Robot” season and takes part in competitions against other area schools. The 15 to 20 member team built Number 28 over the course of six weeks. According to retired engineer Rob Coe, who works the team and was one of the three adults at Monday’s meeting, with tight budget and time constraints, the students work in a manner not unlike that of an engineer in the real world. Coe as well as the program’s other two advisors at Monday’s meeting — physics teacher Clint Schulman and technology teacher Tim Kraszewski — emphasized the importance of letting the kids build the robot themselves.

“That’s not how it works with a lot of other teams,” said Kraszewski. “But that is what is important.”

Having placed 14th in the semifinals which were held at Hofstra University in Hempstead in late March, Miller and Pickering of “Team 28: Mission Impossible,” as members called themselves, were at the meeting to impress upon the school board the importance of supporting their future efforts. In addition to providing a demonstration of Number 28’s abilities, which include kicking a soccer ball, the students spoke about what the team does, how long it has been around and why now, more than ever, as Coe pointed out, given the crisis in the Gulf, it is so necessary to train the next generation of engineers and innovative scientists.

School board president Walter Wilcoxen backed up the work of the robotics team by pointing out that most of the group’s funding comes from private donations rather than from the school’s annual budget. To make a donation to the team visit www.piersonrobotics.com.

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