Bridgehampton’s Team Supreme celebrated qualifying for Nationals, last weekend, and now has the hard task of raising $15,000 in three weeks. Photo courtesy Kenny Giosi.
By Mara Certic
The East End was well represented last weekend at the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition when Bridgehampton High School’s rookie Team Supreme surprised everyone by finishing in the top eight and qualifying for the FIRST Robotics Competition in St. Louis. Pierson High School’s team brought home an award for creativity.
A total of 51 schools competed in the Long Island Regional FIRST Robotics Competition last week from March 26 to 28 at Hofstra University, to fight for a place at the International Robotics Competition in St. Louis later this month.
Robotics teams that compete in the FIRST tournaments are given a specific challenge in January, and then have about a month until “Stop Build Day” to build a robot capable of completing that task.
This year, teams were given the job of building a robot that is able to stack totes on top of one other, and for even more points, to place garbage cans on top of the totes.
Members of Bridgehampton’s Team Supreme (or Team 5659) were as surprised as most onlookers when they landed themselves a spot in the top eight in their first ever FIRST competition, qualifying them to compete in St. Louis.
Team Supreme co-captains Claudio Figueroa and Dylan Breault said they definitely wouldn’t have done so well if not for the help of the Pierson Robotics Team, whose prepared them for what to expect in the competition, as well as holding practice games with them before the tournament.
“They were the most essential team to our success,” Dylan said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have even gotten into the competition.”
At the end of the qualifying games, each of the top eight teams was allowed to choose two teams to bring as an “ally” to the finals. So when Bridgehampton qualified, its members knew they would ask Pierson’s Team 28 to accompany them to the playoffs. The alliance from Bridgehampton, Hicksville and Sag Harbor lost out in the quarterfinals, but the Team Supreme still finished with enough points to receive an invitation to St. Louis.
The team’s mentor, Mark McLeod, provided a lot of insight and support to the team, and attended meetings of the club once a week since October, forcing the teens to program and re-program robots, until it became second nature.
His hard work, and that of staff advisors Judiann Carmack-Fayyaz and Kenny Giosi, helped Team 5659 make their dream of qualifying come true.
“Honestly, I can’t explain how euphoric the experience was,” said Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz, who added that announcers and volunteers throughout the weekend repeated how much they loved Team Supreme. An alumni organization at Hofstra liked the team so much it offered to raise money to help send the rookie team to Missouri.
“None of us could have ever imagined that our first year in robotics would be so momentous and empowering,” she said. “It was not only the toughest fun that we could ever have, in a strange way, it was the funnest fun that we could ever have.”
Pierson’s veteran First Robotics Competition Team 28 won the Xerox creativity award for its robot, parts of which were made with a 3-D printer won by team members in an essay competition earlier this year.
“It was pretty cool stuff,” said Clint Schulman, the faculty advisor to the robotics team.
East Hampton High School, which doesn’t have its own team, had three students and their tech teacher, Trevor Gregory, accompany and compete alongside Pierson’s team. Local mentors Rick Pickering, Rob Coe and Jim Ritter contributed hours of help to Pierson’s team and “were really fundamental in the mechanics aspects of the program,” according to Mr. Schulman.
“At the end of the qualifications, we finished 29th, which was a little disappointing,” Mr. Schulman said. The co-captain of team, Kevin Spolarich, nevertheless felt that “the competition went pretty well for us overall.”
“We were really impressed with how well Bridgehampton did as a rookie team,” Kevin said. “They managed to build a really good robot despite lacking the experience or resources of other teams.”
Bridgehampton’s team now has three weeks to raise $15,000, which would be enough money to send all of the team members to the competition in St. Louis which will take place from April 22 through 25.
“We have an extremely supportive school district,” Ms. Carmack-Fayyaz said, but still the team needs to work harder than ever to raise the money it needs to make the trip.
From now until then, with its robot sealed in a bag in a corner of its work room, Team Supreme has three things on its to do list: Raise money, breathe, and make it become a reality.
For more information, or to donate money to Bridgehampton’s Team Supreme, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dr. Lois Favre at (631) 537-0271, extension 1310.