Glendale Teams Head To Citywide Tournament
Five years after their LEGO robotics program swung into full gear, P.S./I.S. 119’s program continues to provide the building blocks for success.
Chris Dudin, who has taught the program since its inception, has grown the program from three classes in 2008 to 16 classes for sixth- to eighth-grade students, with the help of the Glendale school’s principal, Dr. Jeanne Fagan.
Currently, 432 students in the middle school grades take a robotics course. This year, for the first time ever, the program has been expanded to kindergarten and first-grade students (the school only recently expanded to hold elementary school classes).
The classes have also moved from the library to a dedicated classroom. “We’ve definitely grown by leaps and bounds,” said Dudin.
In addition to the classes, Dudin has also continued to field competitive teams in the LEGO League. The Top Gearz team took first place in the boroughwide competition, continuing the legacy of the 2008 Top Gearz team that did the same. A second team, SuperBotz, received first place in research as well as a sportsman- ship award for “gracious professionalism.”
The first-grade students also have a team of their own, MiniGearz.
In an interview with the Times Newsweekly last Thursday, Jan. 31- five years to the day that the program was first featured in the paper- Dudin noted that while he was figuring out the curriculum on the fly in 2008, now, “everything is solid, everything is in place.”
“I know exactly what rubrics to use,” Dudin added, pointing out that the students in the class must construct a robot for their final project in lieu of an exam.
Dudin noted that the students learn “research skills, technology skills, [and] teamwork.” Fagan added that the program is “making kids aware of how to use technology in today’s world.”
“The research really is based on using technology for a relevant problem that we have,” the principal added.
The students in the competition are given a series of tasks corresponding to real-world problems, and are asked to construct a robot using LEGOs that can accomplish those tasks on a board about the size of a kitchen table. The robot that can perform all the tasks in the fastest time wins the competition.
This year, the competition focused on services to seniors. The tasks involved reaching for items which are out of reach, heading up and down ramps, fixing LEGO chairs, working “cardio machines” or using a color-sensitive sensor to choose the correct piece of “medicine.”
The 10-student Top Gearz team was given their tasks over the summer, and began work on their robot before the start of the school year. Since September, the team has spent time before and after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well as during lunch breaks and free periods on their robot.
“The biggest problem is just meeting up,” said Eileen Jimenez, one of the team’s co-captains.
As the team jelled, they began to dress and act in concert.
“We have so much love for this robotics program that we spent a lot of money,” said Jimenez, laughing.
The Top Gearz team now heads to face 80 other teams at the citywide championships at the Jacob Javitz Center in Manhattan.
“We’re not leaving the citywides without the first place championship,” Jimenez declared. “We want it so bad.”
Meanwhile, the SuperBotz team started from scratch after the Queens qualifier, building a brand new robot for the citywide competition, according to team member Melissa Wong.
“We’re trying to get the solution more innovative,” she stated, “We’re aiming to be champions.”
The team also met Mondays and Wednesdays
The winners hope to be one of 82 teams to head to St. Louis in March for the nationwide tournament.