John Jay High School robotics team wins FIRST Tech Challenge tournament

  A robotics team from John Jay High School placed first in the FIRST Tech Challenge tournament on January 21, and will proceed to the regional competition at Pace University on February 5, 2017. Students on the winning team are Jonathan Berganza, Mike Fishetti, Lauren Ko, and Taylor Schmidt.

A second John Jay High School robotics team made it to the semifinals of the FIRST Tech Challenge and earned second place for the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award. This judged award is given to the team that has the most innovative and creative robot design solution. Team members are Griffin Christofferson, Jack Finney, Matt Gomes, James Lucassen, Matt and David Sorkin, and Rebecca Stevens.

Robotics is a new program at John Jay High School and this was the school’s first competition. “I am very proud of these students,” said JJHS Robotics teacher Steve Zoeller. “Our winning team battled to a record of 6-0 in the preliminary round, and flew through the semifinal round with a record of 2-0. The final round was very competitive and the complimentary designs of our robot and our alliance partners' robots with a quick last-minute design change put us over the edge.”

In a FIRST Tech Challenge, teams design, build, program, and operate robots about the size of a microwave oven that compete in specific challenges. Teams are given a standard set of parts, but are also allowed a budget and encouraged to buy or make specialized parts.

  The season’s challenge is announced in early September. This year, teams were asked to create a robot that could pick up six balls and toss them into an elevated hopper called the center vortex, activate four beacons by pressing a button, and lift and place an eighteen-inch yoga ball into the center vortex.

John Jay’s teams have been meeting five days a week, in their second period Robotics class and after school as part of the new robotics club. “When I come in, before the bell rings, they are already at work,” said Zoeller.

Zoeller said that students came to robotics class with different skill sets. Some have taken architecture design, and know how to use CAD. Some know JAVA and how to code. Others have taken Principles of Engineering and can design hardware. Robotics requires all of these skills, and more.

“The most important skill that robotics teaches students is how to work as a team when things are complicated,” said Zoeller. “Collaboration and teamwork are 21st century skills.”

“Technology isn’t something that will affect us tomorrow. It’s here today,” said Zoeller. “Look at the news. Self-driving cars. Factory automation. Robotics prepares kids for that world. It develops their skills and gives them a leg up on the job market.”