By Tessa Raebeck
In a contest with more than 4,000 competitors, the Pierson High School Robotics Team has won a 3-dimensional printer, which is already being used to make parts for this year’s robot.
Each year, the robotics team, First Robotics Competition (FRC) Team 28, competes in an international competition at Hofstra University against teams from other Long Island high schools but from as far away as Canada, Brazil, and Israel. Last year’s team went to the finals in St. Louis, and this year’s team is working hard in hopes of repeating the fate.
The robotics team meets twice a week for most of the year, but in January ramps it up to meetings every day for six weeks, leading up to “Stop Build Day” on February 17, when the completed robot is shipped to FIRST. The team continues to meet every day in preparation of the regional competition, held March 26 through 28.
This year’s competition, “Recycle Rush,” is focused on combining technology with environmental responsibility.
“Recycle Rush is a recycling-themed game played by two alliances of three robots each,” according to FIRST. “Robots score points by stacking totes on scoring platforms, capping those stacks with recycling containers, and properly disposing of pool noodles, representing litter. In keeping with the recycling theme of the game, all game pieces used are reusable or recyclable by teams in their home locations or by FIRST at the end of the season.”
To win the contest, two members of the team, Abigail Gianis and Clara Oppenheimer, wrote an essay explaining why Sag Harbor’s student engineers deserved the printer, an EKOCYCLE Cube Printer that uses a filament cartridge made with recycled material.
The FIRST Robotics Competition, which Pierson competes in annually, invited all registered teams to apply for one of approximately 1,600 printers, donated by 3D Systems and the Coca-Cola Company.
“They had basically a grant, that if you wrote a proposal and justified your need,” you would be awarded a printer, said Rob Coe, one of the team’s mentors.
“We went into detail about how we would incorporate it into our school to show both students and teachers the new kind of technology coming out,” said Abigail.
“We spoke about how our school embraces being eco-friendly,” she added. “The biggest point we made was regarding our robot. We spoke about how we would be able to print parts for our robot, so we could have the part we need in hours, as opposed to what could be weeks if we ordered a part.”
The essay competition is one example of how the robotics program doesn’t just teach students to manufacture robots, but also provides hands-on experience in marketing, teamwork, and real-world applications.
“There’s lots of talk about jobs and all the jobs are in technology and engineering and the U.S. is behind and we’re not putting out enough students to be able to fill those jobs—so this is a program that enables kids to gain that experience and go out into the real world and perform,” Clint Schulman, the faculty advisor to the robotics program, told the Sag Harbor Board of Education last month.
Already being used in the team’s shop, the printer immediately saved the team money and time, easing the robot-building process.
“We’ve been making a lot of parts for the robot,” Mr. Coe said, as the Ekocycle printed fervently. “We’re making hubs for motors, we’re making hooks for picking up the trash cans.”
“There’s already a bunch of printed parts in our robot,” added Abigail. “The printed parts allowed us to implement things into our bot that we haven’t been able to before because we lack a connector part—all we had to do is print out the connector and now it’s perfect.”