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Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
The RoboPanda Robotics team at P.S. 4.

Little Neck‘s RoboPandas have earned second place in the city finals.

After hours of preparation and multiple rounds of competition against hundreds of teams from the New York area, the group of talented fifth-grade students at P.S. 94 in Little Neck and their coaches took home silver in the FIRST New York City Lego League Championship on Sunday, March 19.

Students Thomas Kang, Elaine Jin, Jiayn Yan, Fiona Doddo, Lawrence Tom, Josh Fattore, Amanda Jacobus and Bridget O’Connell worked collaboratively through qualifier and semi-final rounds over the last few months, actively engaging in the two main components of the competition: a research project, where they discussed the dangers of feeding waterfowl living in public parks, and a robot design, where they constructed their robot, Panda Recruit Ginny.

On March 17, the dedicated team spoke about their experiences leading up to the final event.

“[The qualifying round] was very hard and it took a lot of effort, but it was worth it,” Thomas said. “We got a trophy … and in March, we got to go again.”

“There were teams that were high-level teams,” Elaine added. “They were also from the upper grades, and we were from the lower grades. And we still persevered.”

Fiona explained that the team ran into trouble during the semi-finals when they tried to operate their robot on a mat that was not flattened out properly. The teammates decided to speak up to the referees about the situation and were granted the ability to re-do their round.

“It was really pretty brave of the kids to be able to do that and show that skill set,” principal Laura Avakians said.

The team traveled to the City College of New York on March 19 to compete in the finals. Prior to the competition, they couldn’t contain their enthusiasm.

“We feel really pumped and excited,” Josh said. “We added a lot to our [poster] board; we took some stuff away … We did a lot of stuff to make the robot better so that we can achieve as much as possible.”

“Even if we don’t win, we’ve learned a lot along the way, and we worked together,” Fiona said before the competition.

Coach and teacher Ellie Glus said she has noticed a positive change in the kids along the journey.

“They’re phenomenal,” Glus said. “I can say they have changed personally in so many ways. And I see their presentations skills; I see how they support each other … I’m just so excited for them because they have life skills that they can take with them.”

“It’s a pleasure to see how they work around a particular problem,” coach Alex Lozada said. “I don’t give them the answers; I give them the ideas, and then see what they come up with. And then I just try to boost them along the way.”

Donna Jacobus, Amanda’s mother, said she too has seen a positive change in both her daughter and the entire group.

“They’ve all come together,” Jacobus said. “They have each other’s back, in everything; other than LEGO league, as well. And, as a parent, I know they’re going to be friends for a very long time. And I love that they’re getting this experience.”

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