Queens high school students vie for NYC robotics title

Photos courtesy of Peter Beninati

Follow me @liamlaguerre


Nearly a dozen Queens high school teams are looking to terminate their rivals at the 14th Annual NYC FIRST Robotics competition.

The event is being held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center this Friday through Sunday, and the teams are competing to win a trip to the world championships.

Earlier in the year, FIRST, a mentoring organization that seeks to get students more involved in science and math, gave a mission to the competing teams. The high schools had to build robots that could hurl a two-foot yoga ball through a goal, which is seven feet in the air.

“It’s difficult because we find out the game, and then we have six weeks to build [the robot],” said Peter Beninati, a mentor for the student team at Queens Vocational and Technical High School in Long Island City. “During that time we are prototyping and trying to find out what works best with the resources that we have.”

What makes the competition challenging is that the team has to join with teams from other schools to make three-member alliances and compete  in a form of three-on-three robot basketball, combining a mix of sports with science and technology. The teams score points not only for successfully putting the ball in the goal, but also for passing and assists.

Another challenge for the students is that they have to raise money to build their machines and operate as clubs in the school.

The team at Queens Vocational has a robot that they are calling “the Big Green Machine,” for its color and size. It took $2,500 to create the robot, and the 31-member club has a budget of $15,000 for the year. The students received funding from sponsors, such as Con Edison and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

“Not only do you learn methods of mechanical engineering for building the robot,” Beninati said, “you also learn to make a team and it’s almost like running a business.”

The world championships will be held in St. Louis from April 23 to 26.



More from Around New York