Tag Archive | "Pierson"

Pierson Students Lobby for CPR to be Taught in New York Schools

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Pierson students Emma Romeo, Arlena Burns, Joseph Carlozzi and Alex Toscano and their health teacher Sue Denis met with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in his Albany office June 3.

Pierson students Emma Romeo, Arlena Burns, Joseph Carlozzi and Alex Toscano and their health teacher Sue Denis met with Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. in his Albany office June 3. Also pictured are Barbara and John Schmidt, who attended the event in memory of their 14-year-old grandson, Ronan Guyer, who tragically passed away after suffering a heart attack during a practice for a state cross country championship in November, 2012. Photo courtesy Assemblyman Thiele’s office.

By Tessa Raebeck

Madison McCarthy was just 5 years old when she went into sudden cardiac arrest in her kindergarten classroom in upstate New York. The principal of her school held Madison in his arms for 18 minutes waiting for help No one checked her breathing, no one performed CPR and Madison died waiting for help.

Pierson Middle-High School Health teacher Sue Denis and her student CPR instructors, backed by the American Heart Association and supporters like Madison’s mother, Suzy McCarthy, are now lobbying state politicians to ensure tragedies like Madison’s don’t happen again.

Having taught CPR at Pierson for 20 years this spring, Ms. Denis has instructed  hundreds of students—who have saved  16 to 18 lives—to be instructors, but at schools across the state, CPR programs are neither mandated nor funded.

Sue Denis's first CPR class at Pierson in the spring of 1994.

Sue Denis’s first CPR class at Pierson in the spring of 1994. Photo courtesy Sue Denis.

That could change very soon. After years of teachers, survivors and mourning relatives asking legislators to back a bill to require kids in New York to learn CPR before graduating high school, a bill passed the state Senate last week and the state Assembly on Tuesday, June 17. It is now waiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature. If the governor signs the bill, it will then go for final approval to Commissioner John King and the Board of Regents, who will be responsible for whether CPR training is actually implemented into educational curriculums statewide.

“One step at a time,” Ms. Denis said Wednesday, June 18.

The American Heart Association says the requirement could help to save thousands of lives across the state each year. Nationwide, according to the AHA, approximately 424,000 people have cardiac arrest outside of a hospital every year—and only about 10 percent survive.

The survival rate fluctuates between 2 and 10 percent across New York State, Ms. Denis said, adding that in the 16 states where CPR certification is mandated for high school students, that survival rate can be as high as 50 percent.

A cardiac arrest can be brought on by 14 different causes, including drowning, getting hit in the heart, smoke inhalation, loss of blood and heart attacks, the latter which occur about every 30 seconds in the United States.

“There’s just so much in our diet and the way Americans live these days is just so unhealthy, that it’s a common occurrence to have a heart attack,” Pierson senior Caleb Atkinson-Barnes  said while in Ms. Denis’s CPR instructor class Friday, June 13. “You could be anywhere and a person could go down—and knowing CPR will save that person’s life.”

Sue Denis's elective class of 10th, 11th and 12th grade CPR instructors at Pierson Friday, June 13.

Sue Denis and her elective class of 10th, 11th and 12th grade CPR instructors at Pierson Friday, June 13. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Ms. Denis and four of her Pierson students—Arlena Burns, Joe Carlozzi, Emma Romeo and Alex Toscano—traveled to Albany Tuesday, June 3, to ask for the bill’s passage. They heard from Ms. McCarthy, Madison’s mom, and other families who lost loved ones who could have been saved had someone started CPR earlier.

Alex Toscano, a senior at Pierson and a CPR instructor, told state lawmakers that Ms. Denis has been teaching CPR since before she was born and that she cannot understand why every school doesn’t teach the life-saving skill.

Teaching students to save lives seems like a political no-brainer, but legislators have stalled bills in the past because they are hesitant to put another unfunded state mandate on New York’s already fiscally tight school districts.

“You would rather not support the bill then—God forbid, you’re ever in that situation where you need someone’s help—there’s less people around that know what to do?” Pierson senior and CPR instructor Emma Romeo said of the politicians in class Friday, prior to the bill’s passage. “Because I know if I was in that situation, I would want as many people around to help as possible.”

“You’re going to feel safer in any situation,” added classmate Sheila Mackey. “The fact that most of the teachers in our school don’t know CPR or in other schools don’t know CPR—I’m just surprised the bill hasn’t been passed, it’s a chance to save lives, why wouldn’t they go for it?”

Ms. Denis started at Pierson in the fall of 1993 and had convinced the administration to let her teach CPR by the spring of that school year. Her first graduates in 1994 are now among hundreds of students she has taught, “thousands probably,” she said.

“I’ve been so lucky here at Pierson and fortunate that I’ve always had the support of the whole administration—the principals, the superintendent and the board,” said Ms. Denis.

To her knowledge, about 30 of her students have performed CPR and 16 to 18 lives have been saved.

While working at the Bridgehampton Club, Ms. Romeo saved a little boy who was choking on a Goldfish cracker by performing the Heimlich maneuver.

Ms. Denis’s former student, Rich Simmons, now a fireman in the village, years ago performed CPR on a 65-year-old man whose boat capsized in Sag Harbor. He saved his life.

In September, Erick Saldivar, another former student of Ms. Denis, saved his aunt’s life when she went into respiratory arrest.

“She started seizing and I thought back to Ms. Denis’s class about what to do,” Mr. Saldivar told the Sag Harbor Express last October.

“You obviously are going to feel more confident in that situation knowing that you’ve been taught by someone who knows it so well like Ms. Denis, so you know exactly what to do,” Ms. Toscano said.

“What we always tell the kids,” said Ms. Denis, “is you’re never going to do CPR when it’s a nice, comfortable, relaxed environment. You’re going to do it in a really stressful, critical situation.”

“It’s a scary thing,” added student-instructor Zach Depetris. “It’s not something that you’re going to be able to do no matter what; it’s a life or death situation.”

Speaking of those who have died from cardiac arrests who were not aided by CPR, Ms. Mackey said, “They were just normal kids. They just went into cardiac arrest, just no one knew how to help them or what to do.”

“Our kids,” Ms. Denis said, “have shown again and again that they’re willing to step up to the plate and do it.”

Pierson Cast of “A Chorus Line” Wins “Best Ensemble” on the East End at the 2014 Teeny Awards

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Pierson's production of "A Chorus Line" took home the highest award, "Best Ensemble," at the 2014 Teeny Awards.

Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line” took home the highest award, “Best Ensemble,” at the 2014 Teeny Awards. Photo by Zoe Vatash.

By Tessa Raebeck

A testament to both their talent and their teamwork, the cast of “A Chorus Line” at Pierson High School took home the highest honor at the 2014 Teeny Awards, “Best Ensemble.”

Held Sunday, June 8, at Longwood High School, the Teeny Awards are put on by the East End Arts Council to recognize the talent of local actors, musicians, technicians and all other artists of the theater.

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Photo by Zoe Vatash.

“As ‘A Chorus Line’ is a musical about the ensemble–about them as individuals, who make up the chorus as a unit–this is the ultimate compliment to our group,” Pierson Theatre Director Paula Brannon said. “It means we did it right.”

“As their director, I am extremely proud of these young thespians for not just their talent, but [their] dedication and extremely hard work as a unit,” said Ms. Brannon. “They were truly an ensemble and we are honored to have been recognized for that work.”

 

For a full list of the Teeny Awards taken home to Sag Harbor, click here.

To read more about Pierson’s production of “A Chorus Line,” click here.

Pierson and the Ross School Win Big at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards

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Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of "A Chorus Line" in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

Pierson High School students rehearse the final dance number of “A Chorus Line” in the high school auditorium January 26. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Tessa Raebeck

Up against 15 other competing high schools, Pierson High School and the Ross School took home 10 awards between them at the 12th Annual Teeny Awards ceremony at Longwood High School Sunday, June 8.

Hosted by East End Arts, the Teeny Awards recognize exceptional acting, directing and technical work in the theatre productions at local high schools. The 2013-2014 awards saw the entry of over 30 dramas, comedies and musicals, with more than 1,000 students involved in the casts, crews, pit and production teams.

“Whatever position you hold in a theatrical production–it is of the utmost importance,”  Teeny Awards Coordinator Anita Boyer said in a press release Sunday. “Each member of the troupe relies on the others in order to pull off a show and being a part of it is such a unique and incredible experience.”

 

Pierson High School

Before a crowd of past Teeny Award winners, theatre owners, local politicians and other distinguished guests, Pierson students performed the number “What I Did for Love” from “A Chorus Line,” warming up for what would be a long night of shaking hands and grabbing trophies.

Pierson took home one of the biggest awards of the night, winning “Best Ensemble” for its production of “A Chorus Line.”

The technical end of “A Chorus Line” was also featured in a heavy showing during the awards. Shelley Matthers was recognized for her role as stage manager and Shane Hennessy took home a technical design recognition award for his role in lighting design for ”A Chorus Line,” as well as Pierson’s other productions “A Murderer Among Us” and “The Fantasticks.”

Emily Selyukova was also recognized for technical design for her work as set designer and student director for “The Fantasticks.”

Emily and the entire cast of “The Fantasticks” took a Judges’ Choice Award home to Sag Harbor for their work as a student run and directed production.

The Lead Actress in a Drama award went to Rebecca Dwoskin of Pierson for her performance as Olga Buckley Lodge in “A Murderer Among Us.”

 

The Ross School

The Ross School also had a strong showing. Joannis “Yanni” Giannakopoulos was named best supporting actor in a drama for his performance as Scotty in “Median.”

Ross also earned best supporting actress in a drama, with Amili Targownik winning the award for her solo showing in “The One-and-a-Half-Year Silent Girl.”

The supporting actress in a comedy award resulted in a surprising tie, but the twist simply gave Ross School two awards instead of one; For their performances in “The Grand Scheme,” Daniela Herman, who played Bethel, and Naomi Tankel, who played Clarice, were honored.

Inga Cordts-Gorcoff was awarded a prize for her role as stage manager for “One Acts” at Ross.

The Eight Guinea Pigs of Sag Harbor’s IB Program are Ready to Graduate

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IB Diploma Candidates Max Snow and Bryant Yunker play a scientific song for fellow soon-to-be graduates Chance Sevigny, Kyle Sturmann, Garrett Potter, Tiger Britt and Carli Fischer at the IB recognition ceremony in the Pierson Middle-High School library Thursday, May 29 (Drew Harvey is there but not pictured).

IB Diploma Candidates Max Snow and Bryant Yunker play a scientific song for fellow soon-to-be graduates Chance Sevigny, Kyle Sturmann, Garrett Potter, Tiger Britt and Carli Fischer at the IB recognition ceremony in the Pierson Middle-High School library Thursday, May 29 (Drew Harvey is there but not pictured). Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Adequate sleep, a social life and good grades: a diploma candidate in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program must choose two.

At a recognition ceremony for the first group of Pierson High School IB diploma candidates, eight seniors who were the guinea pigs when the school started IB in September 2012, Vice Principal Gary Kalish joked that students could only choose two of the three—and, perhaps surprisingly, the students laughed.

“Two years ago,” said Garrett Potter, a senior and IB diploma candidate, “we, Cohort 1, made the conscious decision to take on the challenge of the IB diploma program head on. And I can honestly say, two years later, I have not only improved as a student through the program but as a person.”

The eight inaugural students, Tiger Britt, Carli Fischer, Drew Harvey, Garrett Potter, Chance Sevigny, Max Snow, Kyle Sturmann and Bryant Yunker, were recognized in a ceremony before teachers, parents and administrators last Thursday, May 29, in the Pierson library.

As the district’s IB coordinator, Mr. Kalish led the initiative to introduce the international curriculum to Sag Harbor. A rigorous college preparatory program that seeks to educate the whole student, emphasizing critical thinking, creativity, responsibility and cultural understanding, IB is currently offered to Pierson students in grades 11 and 12.

Following recommendations made to the board of education by Mr. Kalish and Principal Jeff Nichols in March, the district is in the process of extending the IB curriculum to include a Middle Years Program (MYP) that would make it available for students in grades six through 10.

IB is designed to give students a global perspective, with more group discussion, problem solving and abstract thinking than traditional lecture-style classrooms. To qualify for the diploma, the eight members of the group had to complete six IB classes, as well as the Theory of Knowledge (TOK) course, Extended Essay Project, and Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) activities.

In addition, the students completed internal and external assessments demonstrating understanding of different subject areas, including math and science portfolios, research investigations and research papers and oral commentaries, which included some 20 minutes of speaking in another language, “quite an impressive feat,” according to Mr. Kalish.

“What really makes the IB program unique, aside from those six courses and their assessments, is what the IB weighs as equally important in terms of their preparation for life after high school,” said Mr. Kalish.

Students are pushed to be critical thinkers, develop natural curiosity, act with integrity and honesty and show empathy, compassion and respect for others, Mr. Kalish said.

“I’m not going to sit here and say it was easy,” Garrett said, adding nothing worth accomplishing is ever easy.

“What I would say to Cohort 2,” he said, addressing the group of junior students in their first year of IB seated in the audience, “is I know things may seem tough at times, [but] that feeling of accomplishment when it’s all over—it’s all worth it.”

Garrett apologized to the graduating group’s parents for “stressing you guys out sometimes,” and thanked the administration “for going through this process with us and doing it together.”

“We know it was equally as hard for you, but we believe it was a mutualistic relationship, in that we all benefited from it greatly,” he added. “I believe the program has many more good years in the school.”

Theory of Knowledge, an essential component of IB, is a two-semester course that challenges students to question the bases of knowledge in the disciplines they study and to develop the ability to analyze evidence and express it in a rational argument.

“The best student does not need to wear their grades on their sleeves to demonstrate their stature,” said TOK teacher Sean Kelly. “Fearlessness, toughness, dedication and, most important of all, integrity…When you consider the expectation and standards inherent in the IB program, you can see how it can reveal the best in students.”

Student Drew Harvey said the biggest switch in adapting to the IB program was on the shoulders of the teachers.

“They had to change their whole curriculum and go outside what they’ve been teaching for the past 10 to 20 years,” Drew said.

“Mr. Kelly taught us to think outside the box and create our own opinions,” he said, adding the students’ were primarily pushed through writing.

History of the Americas teacher Ruth White-Dunne, he said, “did a really fine job of teaching history in a way we never thought was possible [and] showed us historical perspective by showing us all the causes and effects of global issues for all sides and parties.”

“That really opened our eyes to another way of thinking that was echoed through Mr. Kelly in his class,” added Drew.

Another key component of the IB curriculum is the Creativity, Action, Service requirement. Students must obtain 50 hours of each of the three components. The means to do so vary widely; creativity hours can be earned through playing an instrument or making art, action through moving your body via horseback riding or bushwhacking, and service through helping the community.

Seniors Carli Fischer and Kyle Sturmann told the room about their experience initiating recycling in the elementary and middle schools.

“These kids got pretty jacked up,” Kyle said of the younger recyclers. “I’m not gonna lie, they were into it.”

Pierson Middle School Student Calls on Classmates to Stick Up for Others in Anti-Bullying Film

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By Tessa Raebeck 

Bullying has come to the forefront of the national dialogue in recent years, but it’s always been a constant among seventh graders.

“We really wanted to take a stand against bullying,” said Olivia Corish, a seventh grader at Pierson Middle School, whose latest short film, “A Cry for Help,” has made waves as a statement against both being a bully and being a bystander.

Through the film, which was shot entirely on her iPhone and edited using Final Cut Pro, Olivia called on her classmates to be “upstanders,” or someone who “steps in and says you’ve gotta stop,” she said Tuesday.

In the film, shot at Pierson, a young girl played by Anna Schiavoni, Olivia’s best friend and go-to lead actor, traverses the school day as best she can, but is frequently intercepted by a herd of bullies as she navigates the halls.

Playing the “victim,” Anna’s character struggles when she has a sign saying “Loser” taped to her back, is not picked for a sports team in gym class and is first forgotten and later ridiculed when another girl is passing out invitations to her party. As she tries to get through the day, the victim is laughed at, pushed or completely isolated. Even taking a sip of water is dangerous, as a passerby shoves her head into the fountain.

Shot in black and white, the YouTube film is reminiscent of the silent films of the 1920s. There is no dialogue, only sad music, “I’m in Here” by Sia Furler and Sam Dixon.

In one scene, the victim is putting on lip gloss in the bathroom at Pierson as one of the bullies looks on. A dialogue frame pops onto the screen with words said by the bully, “Why are you wearing lip gloss? It’s not going to make you look any prettier.”

The decision to keep the film silent was in part logistical, as play practice was going on at Pierson while the film was shot, and audio “can be really hard,” Olivia said, but it was also symbolic.

“We also thought that our video shouldn’t be dominated by words. It’s kind of the small things that hurt,” Olivia said. “It’s the silent things—like maybe someone just bumping into you or laughing behind your back—and we thought that that really didn’t need any words to describe it.”

The turning point in the film comes when the lip gloss bully is confronted by the “hero,” played by Gabriella Knab, who serves as the story’s upstander.

The inspiration for the hero upstander came from a tolerance and anti-bullying conference Olivia and other Pierson students attended at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Cove.

Every year, the center invites student leaders from across Long Island to participate in the half-day conference, at which they hear from a keynote speaker, then break into small groups to exchange ideas and action plans of how to combat bullying and prejudice in their schools.

“We try to be [upstanders],” Anna said Tuesday.

“As much as possible,” added Olivia.

“A Cry for Help” premiered May 10 at the inaugural Young Filmmakers’ Festival at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. In the weeks since, it has received 135 views on YouTube and has been widely shared by Sag Harbor parents on Facebook.

Anna and Olivia, however, are more concerned with the tangible response to the film’s message they have seen in school.

“They have really loved it,” Olivia said of her classmates. “I think it really inspired a lot of them to take a stand against the small bullying that happens.”

Anna said she too has been inspired by her role as the victim in the film.

After a school year of watching a certain bully in her class pick on another student, stealing his food and being generally unpleasant, she decided to step in. Anna asked the victim whether he enjoys having his food stolen, to which he replied no (perhaps unsurprisingly).

“He was like, ‘No, not really, but I think it’s just one of those things that you let happen,’” she recalled. “And I’m like, ‘No. You’re not supposed to let that happen.’”

During the class period in which his food is traditionally stolen, the day Anna spoke up, the boy instead reportedly said to his bully, “Actually, I think I want to eat my food today.”

As of Tuesday, the bully was no longer asking him for food.

“And now it stops, like in my film,” Olivia said of her friend’s story. “Just like that.”

 

FILM URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=An_ZDfsr_pg

“The Fantasticks” Premieres as Pierson’s First Student-Directed Musical

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The cast/production team of "The Fantasticks." From left to right, front row seated: Emily Selyukova, Becca Dwoskin, Audrey Owen. Middle row: Shane Hennessy, Paul Hartman, Colleen Samot, Matthew Schiavoni. Top row: Denis Hartnett. Photo courtesy of Paula Brannon.

The cast/production team of “The Fantasticks.” From left to right, front row seated: Emily Selyukova, Becca Dwoskin, Audrey Owen. Middle row: Shane Hennessy, Paul Hartman, Colleen Samot, Matthew Schiavoni. Top row: Denis Hartnett. Photo courtesy of Paula Brannon.

By Tessa Raebeck

In its first ever musical produced and directed entirely by students, Pierson Middle/High School presents “The Fantasticks,” a comedic romance that tells the story of two neighboring fathers who pretend to feud in order to trick their children into falling in love.

First opened in 1960, “The Fantasticks” is the world’s longest running musical, after running for over 52 years in Manhattan. Tom Jones wrote the book and lyrics and Harvey Schmidt composed the music, which includes classics like “Try to Remember,” “They Were You” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

Along with acting in the show, Pierson Senior Emily Selyukova is making her directorial debut.

“With a keen eye and natural instincts, she guides her fellow classmates through a difficult but beautiful score, iconic characters and a story that is both familiar and needed,” Paula Brannon, Pierson’s theatre director, said of her student.

Acting as both performers and production designers, Becca Dwoskin, Denis Hartnett, Paul Hartman, Shane Hennessy, Audrey Owen, Matthew Schiavoni, Colleen Samot and Zoe Vatash make up the rest of the cast.

“The Fantasticks” will run Wednesday, April 30 and Thursday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 725-5302 or emailing pbrannon@sagharborschools.org. All proceeds benefit the Pierson Theatre scholarship fund. The show, which also marks the first time Pierson High School is offering a third musical in one school year, was not budgeted for by the district and was instead funded entirely through donations by local merchants and parents.

Lady Whalers Bounce Back – Sports Wrap 4/10/14

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Softball Bounces Back with Two Wins

The Pierson softball team this week lost to Center Moriches, 8-2, on Friday, April 4 and then traveled to Stony Brook, where the Lady Whalers took our their frustrations in the form of a 23-2 drubbing of the Lady Bears on Monday. Pierson improved to 6-2 with a 9-3 win over Southampton on Tuesday.

Senior shortstop Kasey Gilbride went 3-for-4 against Southampton, including a first inning home run, with two runs scored and three RBI. Meg Schiavoni also went 3-for-4, and freshmen Lottie Evans and Cali Cafiero also hit home runs.

Sam Duchemin pitched a complete game, allowing just two earned runs on three hits while striking out nine.

Next up for the Lady Whalers is a road game today, April 10, at 4:15 p.m. at Hampton Bays. After a long layoff for Spring Break, the team will face Mattituck on the road on April 21.

Girls Track Earns Rare Tie Against ESM

The East Hampton girls track team tied Eastport-South Manor, 73-73, in a dual meet on April 2, a result rarely seen in the world of track competition, and athletes from Pierson were a big part of the result.

Allura Leggard won the 200-meter dash with a personal-best time of 28.2 seconds, and also finished second in the 100-meter dash with a time of 14 seconds flat. Leggard also anchored the winning 4×100-meter relay, which posted a time of 54.7 seconds. Hannah Jungck won the 3,000-meter run with a personal best time of 11:34.5 and was a member of the winning 4×800-meter relay. Several other Pierson athletes posted personal bests on the day, including Rose O’Donoghue, Alaina Goggin, and Elena Skerys.

Next up for the Lady Bonackers are two straight invitational meets at Sachem North on April 12 and at Connetquot on April 19.

Bumpy Road for Bonac Lacrosse

The East Hampton boys lacrosse team, which joins with players from Pierson and Bridgehampton, lost two games this week to fall to 1-4 in Division II Play. The Bonackers lost, 15-10, to Bayport-Blue Point on Friday, April 4 and 9-3 to Kings Park at home on Tuesday.

Pierson’s Sean Toole played well in goal against Kings Park and had 12 saves, but the team’s offense struggled to score. Pierson’s Drew Harvey had one goal and one assist while Jack Schleicher had one goal as well.

Against Bayport, Harvey had a big game on offense, scoring two goals to go along with four assists. Schleicher scored twice as well and Toole had 18 saves in goal. The Bonackers trailed by a single goal going in the fourth quarter, where they were outscored, 5-1.

A home game is scheduled for today, April 10, against Southampton at 4 p.m., followed by a road game at Westhampton on Monday at 3:30 p.m.

Laser Regatta Rescheduled for This Weekend

Due to excessive winds, the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor rescheduled its Ice Breaker Regatta to this Saturday, April 12. There will be a skippers meeting at 1 p.m. followed by a schedule of six races, with courses to be set by a race committee boat.

For more information contact Marty Knab at 631-506-1243.

Pierson Robotics Team Heading to Nationals

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Students cheer on the Pierson Robotics Team at the Long Island Regional competition last weekend. Photo courtesy of Rob Coe.

Students cheer on the Pierson Robotics Team at the Long Island Regional competition last weekend. Photo courtesy of Rob Coe.

By Tessa Raebeck

The referee made the call—it was arguably questionable—and there was nothing they could do about it.

For the second year in a row, members of the Pierson Robotics team, FRC Team 28, thought they had just missed qualifying for the national championship of the FIRST Robotics Competition after finishing in second place at the Long Island Regional contest at Hofstra University last weekend.

The hopes of senior team leaders Alex Cohen and Lucas Pickering, who had fostered a team that had grown bigger, better and more united each year, had been dashed—or so they thought.

But Pierson wound up securing an automatic invitation to the national championship competition, which will be held in St. Louis from April 23 to 26, when it won the Engineering Inspiration Award, which, according to FIRST, “celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers, both within their school, as well as their community.”

The Pierson Robotics Team celebrated their spot at nationals with a parade down Main Street on Monday. Photo by Michael Heller.

The Pierson Robotics Team celebrated their spot at nationals with a parade down Main Street on Monday. Photo by Michael Heller.

“It’s mostly due to our focus this year on expanding the team and doing work outside of just building the robot,” explained Kevin Spolarich, a Pierson junior on the team’s driving squad. “We are bringing in students from East Hampton, teaching kids in Costa Rica, and showing the robot to the children at the elementary school.”

Pierson collaborates with East Hampton High School, which supplies four of the team’s student engineers and one of its mentors, shop teacher Trevor Gregory.

“We also have done some charitable work in the off-season fixing up old broken down electric scooters for people at the VFW,” Kevin added.

At last weekend’s competition, three of the FRC Team 28 members, Abi Gianis, Alex Cohen and Tiger Britt, talked to the judges, explaining their program and presenting a video they made featuring Dr. Carl Bonuso, Sag Harbor’s interim superintendent, talking about the district’s robotics program to further demonstrate community outreach.

“The kids were so phenomenal, I’m so proud of them,” said Gayle Pickering, Lucas’s mom, who mentors the team with her husband Rick, Mr. Gregory, Rob Coe and Clint Schulman.

“The way they talked about the team and knew the robot” helped secure the award, Ms. Pickering said.

The judges also recognized the team’s innovation, honoring the engineering behind the robot that may not have been able to overcome a bad call, but did turn some very important heads.

Kevin controls the robot’s arm, which picks up, puts down and throws the ball in the competition’s game, Aerial Assist. The game requires alliances of three teams that compete against another team in a game that requires the robot to throw balls that are 2 feet in diameter.

“We use two Xbox controllers hooked up to a laptop to control the robot,” Kevin explained.

Each the approximately 30 students on the team has a distinct role on one of several squads. Captain Lucas Pickering does the driving.

“Our shooting mechanism didn’t work as intended, “said Liam Rothwell-Pessino, a junior who is in his second year on the team. “We had to switch to an entirely different strategy, one where we played midfield/defense. Lucas’s insane driving skills were a big reason our entire strategy didn’t fall apart.”

“Everybody was a real important member of the team and everybody has their different jobs,” said Ms. Pickering. “It was truly teamwork at its best.”

The leader of the scouting team, Pierson junior Shane Hennessy, was tasked with leading the crew in finding teams to complete their alliance last weekend.

“Essentially,” said Liam, “we did really well in the preliminary stage. I think we placed seventh with an 8-1 record. We ended up picking two really great teams for our alliance and made it to the grand finals undefeated. In the final series, we lost 2-1 over a really stupid ref call, but hey, I don’t want to sound like a bad sport, it was still incredibly fun.”

“We were really annoyed and depressed,” he added, “but happy when we won an award that apparently qualifies us for nationals, so in a month, we’re off to St. Louis.”

The game remains the same, but the stakes are much higher.

Using their original robots, the teams compete in the same competition, Aerial Assist, but rather than one field of competition, there are five, filling the Edward Jones Dome, where the St. Louis Rams play.

“Now,” explained Ms. Pickering, “there’ll be 192 teams to scout instead of 49, so Shane Hennessy’s going to be very busy.”

Pierson traveled to the national championship, at the time in Atlanta, about 15 years ago, when the FIRST Robotics Competition was still a small, relatively unknown event. There are now over 2,000 teams competing worldwide, with regional competitions from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“The kids are so excited,” said Ms. Pickering. “I’m so proud of all of them, they put this together. There’s so many of them that are enthusiastic and it was really teamwork. They worked together on the scouting during the competition—that was a huge part of it. They worked together programming…the fact is that it’s teamwork and they really worked together.”

“Overall,” reflected Liam, “it was a great experience. And I’m glad Lucas and Alex get to finally go to nationals for the first time in their last year on the team.”

“It feels fantastic,” said Lucas. “We’re especially looking forward to being able to participate in a group of elite teams and talking to people from those teams.”

“It’ll also be interesting for us to see teams that are older than us for the first time,” he added of the more experienced teams. Pierson’s team was established in 1995 and thus has seniority at the Long Island regional competition.

In addition to securing a spot at the national championship, earning the Engineering Innovation Award secures the team funding—by none other than NASA, which will give Pierson $5,000 to attend the competition.

The team still needs to raise more money, though. With airfare costs high this close to the trip, Ms. Pickering said she is looking to raise $500 per student, with the overall budget close to $25,000 for the entire trip, adding, “That’s a high number, I hope.”

Although the team is hopeful for some large corporate sponsors, every donation counts.

To donate to the Pierson Robotics Team’s trip to nationals, send a check with a note that indicates it is for the Pierson Robotics Team to Pierson Middle/High School, 200 Jermain Avenue in Sag Harbor. For more information on the team, visit frcteam28.com.

Track Becomes Latest Option for Pierson Athletes

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Pierson freshman Allura Leggard, center, at the Armory in New York City in February.

Pierson freshman Allura Leggard, center, at the Armory in New York City in February.

By Gavin Menu; photography by Kurt Leggard

Potential. A great start. Lots of work to do.

Yani Cuesta, a Spanish and English as a Second Language teacher at the Pierson-Middle High School, is head coach of the East Hampton girls track team and doesn’t mix words when she talks about what it takes to build a great program.

“This is the first time in a long while that Pierson is combined with East Hampton in spring track,” said Cuesta, a graduate of East Hampton High School and an alumni of the track program. “The more kids participate, the more it will spread and continue to build.

“Even though our numbers these last two yeas have been the highest we’ve had in a long time, we are still building,” she continued. “We have some shining stars, but we need more depth. A small number of top athletes isn’t going to cut it with some of the larger, tougher teams we go up against.”

One of the shining stars Cuesta spoke about is Allura Leggard, a Pierson freshman who specializes in the sprint events, the 100 and 200-meter races, and the 4×100-meter relay. Leggard, a rising stars in the Pierson field hockey program as well, also runs indoor track during the winter months.

“I have been sprinting since I was five years old,” Leggard said this week. “This winter was my first time doing winter track.”

Cuesta said winter track is important for any track athlete looking to excel in the sport. Of the seven Pierson students on the girls spring track team, only four—Leggard, Hannah Jungck, Rose O’Donoghue and Elena Skerys—participated in winter track as well.

“Winter track is very important for any track athlete because the ones that are serious start then, if not in the fall with cross country,” Cuesta said. “The girls that just come out for the spring are at a disadvantage because their biggest competition has already been running since November.”

Cuesta said Leggard has the potential to “go far” as a sprinter.

“Sprinting is very tough to break into the top spots because there are so many older girls in the county with more experience,” Cuesta said. “As long as she listens, takes care of herself and works hard she has the potential to get to some of the later championship meets.”

Athletes in spring track are allowed to compete in four separate events, although Cuesta said many of the current athletes compete in only one or two events, something that would have to change for East Hampton to become truly competitive Suffolk County, where they currently compete in League VI against schools like Comsewogue, Miller Place and Westhampton, among others.

The Lady Bonackers were off to an 0-2 start going into a dual meet yesterday, April 2, at Eastport-South Manor. Next up are three straight invitationals, followed by a home dual meet against Rocky Point on Tuesday, April 22.

“The girls have a chance at winning some of the dual meets this year,” Cuesta said before adding a few closing words for motivation.

“We have a ways to go before we are as strong as I would like us to be,” she said.

 

 

Pierson Robotics Team Heads to FIRST Competition with Confidence

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The 2013-2014 Pierson Whalers Robotics team. Photo courtesy of Gayle Pickering.

The Pierson Robotics Team placed second at the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition Saturday and will head to the national championship in St. Louis in April. Photo courtesy of Gayle Pickering.

By Tessa Raebeck

After coming in second place last year—and losing the championship on a technicality—the Pierson High School Robotics Team is returning to the FIRST Robotics Competition this year with a vengeance—and a “very fast robot,” according to Shane Hennessy, a junior who is in his fourth season with the team.

This weekend, the 30 members of the Pierson Whalers team will attend the 2014 Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University. An international program, FIRST challenges student teams, aided by mentors, to build a 130-pound robot in six weeks using a standard “kit of parts” and common guidelines.

This year’s game, Aerial Assist, is similar to basketball. The robot must be able to lift, throw and catch a “yoga ball,” 2 feet in diameter.  Compared to previous competitions, Aerial Assist has a catch: The team must form an alliance with two other competitors, resulting in two teams of three robots each competing against each other on the court.

The competition is more challenging this year, said Abi Gianis, a junior who is in her second year on the team.

“We have to build a robot that is capable of not only completing the task, but also can cooperate and work with other robots that we will have had never worked with before,” she said. “Teamwork between different teams is really focused on this year.”

The Whalers' robot poses in the Pierson gymnasium. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

The Whalers’ robot poses in the Pierson gymnasium. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

Abi said the Whalers have scouted other team’s websites and YouTube pages, but cannot form official alliances until they arrive at the competition today, Thursday, March 27

As leader of the team’s scouting division for the second year in a row, Shane is finding his role has become “much more important because of that focus.”

“Last year,” he said, “it was more to figure out strategy, but this year it is integral to our success.”

At the competition, Shane must “know everything about every team there.” He will coordinate with the 12 members of the scouting division to find out information on their opponents and potential allies.

“Since we all have to work together as teams, we need to know which teams work well with us,” Shane said. “Also, we want to be able to prep for the matches where we don’t get to choose our alliance. If we have data on them, we can work together more efficiently.”

Pierson’s robot is fast this year because it has a mecanum wheel drive train, a way the motors are connected to the wheels that allows the robot to quickly go in any direction with ease.

“But our speed also means that we can be pushed around easily,” Shane said. “This means that a good teammate would be one that could block the opposing team for us.”

The robot has pincers that enable it to pick up and throw the ball, using pneumatics to open and close the mechanical arms, which were designed by programmers Liam Rothwell-Pessino and Ben Klinghoffer, with help from Rob Coe, a former electrical engineer—a team mentor—and Lucas Pickering, who captains the team along with Alex Cohen.

Liam, who joined the team last year as a sophomore, said, “Last year, I was kind of lost—as is everyone else I’m told, their first year—but then the second year, you get the hang of it and you really start to contribute. Then it really starts to get interesting and you feel like you’re part of the team.”

“I’d say that the struggling in the first year and being taught by the seniority on the team definitely helps bring the team closer together,” he added.

“We have received a lot more community support in the last few years, and the program has become more than just building a robot, in the sense that we’re really a team and robotics has become an enriching learning experience,” said Shane. “We worked really hard this year, and I think we’ll do well.”

The Pierson Robotics Team's robot and the balls it must throw in the FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University this weekend. Photo by Gayle Pickering.

The Pierson Robotics Team’s robot and the balls it must throw in the FIRST Robotics Competition at Hofstra University this weekend. Photo by Gayle Pickering.