Pierson/East Hampton Gear Up For Robotics Competition

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The Pierson/East Hampton high school robotics team wrapped up its six-week building season on Tuesday and will head to the School-Business Partnership of Long Island Regional Robotics Competition at Hofstra on March 27.

East Hampton has been teaming up with Pierson for more than four years, said Trevor Gregory, one of the team’s mentors and a teacher at East Hampton middle and high school. East Hampton currently buses six students to Pierson two times a week to participate on the team.

“Over the past four years, I’ve really gotten to see what a great experience it is for these kids,” said Mr. Gregory, who started mentoring in 2011. “We didn’t have a program here to that extent that they have over there [at Pierson]. They’ve got a lot of resources and good people who really know what they’re doing.”

Among them are Pierson physics teacher Clint Schulman; high school math teacher Kevin Roode; retired engineer Rob Coe; and Ship Ashore Marina owners Gayle and Rick Pickering.

This year’s competition game, titled Ariel Assist, was introduced in early January at Stony Brook University. Students had six weeks to build a 130-lb robot from a standard “kit of parts,” according to the School-Business Partnership website, and were allowed to add additional features to their robot based on the competition’s rule book.

The game separates 50 participating teams into two alliances—red and blue. From there, schools are paired into teams of three to work together to move 24-inch exercise balls across a field and shoot them into high and low goals, set up somewhat like a basketball court. The robot, controlled by team members using a computer program and Xbox controllers, receives bonus points based on how many assists it has.

“A huge part of this is talking to the other teams, learning how the robots work, meeting the team members,” Mr. Gregory said. “When you go to these competitions, you see fifty different kinds of robots all doing the same exact thing. None of them are alike and it’s really cool to see everyone else’s ideas. It’s also a good social experience for the kids.”

Typically, said Mr. Schulman, the collaborative team does “very well” and places in the final round of regionals, finding its biggest competition in schools like Hauppauge and Patchogue/Medford.

Mr. Gregory said he’s also seen a spiked interest in the club since he started mentoring, comparing East Hampton’s two participants last year to six this year—a grand total of 36 students on the team.

“There’s also definitely an increase in students who go on to study engineering in college that have done the robotics team,” said Mr. Gregory.

East Hampton High School senior Victor Rodriquez said the club helped him in his college application process and is hoping to major in industrial design.

“Mr. Gregory really got me into industrial design,” said Mr. Rodriquez. “Watching the robot and the way it moves is amazing to me, so I’m hoping to go into some kind of industrial design.”

Pierson High School senior and four-time team captain and MIT contender Alexander Cohen also said the robotics team has had a profound impact on his college choices.

“I really want to go into mechanical engineering which has definitely stemmed from my experience here.”

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