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Robotics team competes in New York

March 27, 2014
By Melissa Moliterno , The Town Crier

Austintown Fitch High School robotics team competed in their fifth competition, showcasing their robot Talon Echo, during the 2014 New York Tech Valley Regional FIRST Robotic Competition at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute arena in Troy, New York March 13 to 15.

The team ended up with a rank of 12 out of all the participating teams. They also earned the 2014 Entrepreneurship Award sponsored by Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers.

This award celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit by recognizing a team that has developed the framework for a comprehensive business plan. The team submitted a formal business plan and organized information before the event started. During the event, judges asked them questions regarding the team's organization, fundraising and sponsors for the $25,000\year program.

''This award shows that our students and mentors have developed a framework to maintain the team or years to come,'' said adviser Andy Yantes. ''The engineering competition included 38 teams from away as far as Turkey and is designed to challenge high school student's ability to design, conceptualize, build, modify and test a robot, according to the New York Tech Valley website.

''There [were] 38 teams competing. There's a team from Turkey [and] also a team from Canada. This is one of the first times we've competing against a team from across the world and not just here in U.S. That's a unique item.''

This year's theme was Aerial Assist. Students were given six weeks to prepare for the competition and will be judged based upon their ability to create a robot that has the ability to shoot a two-foot diameter exercise ball through a goal.

''We were given the game January 4 and we had six weeks to build a robot for the game,'' Yantes said.

Each year the task and expectations of the robots are changed, challenging participates to rethink and redesign their robots. According to Yantes, this strengthens students to problem solve in new and innovate ways.

''It gives them the ability to think differently and design differently. They're calculating the best way to shoot the ball and to see them grow to now they seniors is really fun to watch and how they mature through that process,'' he said.

Another new component of this year's competition was the additional funding assistance received. According to Yantes, the school received a $5,000 grant assistance from NASA, which they used for registration fees.

Along with encouraging students to think creatively, the event also highlights student's community involvement with the Chairman's award, which allows participants to demonstrate how they've promoted STEM initiatives through volunteerism.

''The Chairman's award is about what you are doing to promote STEM in your community. The kids actually have to vote on this award and they have to give a presentation at completion and talking about what we do to promote STEM in the community,'' Yantes said, ''We're not just a robotics team. We've done events with Oh Wow. We've done community service for the Austintown Relay For Life for the last two years. We compete like crazy with robot but at the same time theres community involvement.''

Students also will travel and compete March 28 and 29 to the Greater Pittsburgh Regional competition at the California University of Pennsylvania Convocation Center.

''Win or lose the kids have fun. It's the furthest we've gone and we get to see a lot of teams that weve never seen before,'' Yantes said.

The team will travel to the California University of Pennsylvania in California, Pa. March 27 and 29 for a competition including 48 teams from across the U.S. and Canada.



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