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John Jay’s two robotics teams—the Indians and Metal Benders—placed first and second in the Hudson Valley regional qualifier of the FIRST Tech Challenge held at Yonkers’ Riverside High School on January 20. Both will proceed to the regional championships at Pace University on Sunday, February 11. In addition, the Indians won the PTC Design Award, given to the team that best incorporated industrial design elements into their solution.
Both teams are members of John Jay High School’s robotics classes and the Robotics Club.
Steve Zoeller, who teaches design, robotics, and engineering at John Jay High School, credits the success of the robotics teams to creativity, persistence, and collaboration as well as technology education.
“The students have been working hard in class, after school during Robotics Club, and at monthly weekend builds,” said Zoeller. “They even took the robots home during breaks and snow days to get a competitive edge. These students have built the most reliable robots of all the teams I have mentored over the last ten years.”
Technology education at John Jay has also evolved over the last few years. The department has implemented four-year sequences in design, engineering, and computer science. Robotics is a capstone class that allows students to apply what they've learned throughout high school.
“The success of the robots’ autonomous mode in competition was that the software engineers came into robotics class knowing how to code in Java after taking some of our programming classes,” said Zoeller. “They built innovative, highly reliable, engineering marvels. I am so proud of them!"
FIRST Tech Challenge tournaments are ten-hour events. They begin with an inspection of the robots’ hardware and software and a fifteen-minute interview by a panel of judges, followed by a series of matches in which robots complete a number of tasks.
FIRST Tech Challenge is an international high school robotics competition for students in grades 7 - 12. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Students design and build a robot using aluminum, polycarbonate, motors and servos, sensors, and a variety of other materials. They program and control it using Android Smartphones with Java or AppInventor.