The Millstone Times

KIDS Allentown Robotics Comes to the Middle School By Pam Teel

This past year, Allentown High School student, Melissa Domen, who has a strong interest in robotics and is part of the high school team, helped to establish a competitive Lego robotics team at the Stone Bridge Middle School.

Melissa is currently a junior at Allentown High School. She has been the business team leader of the high school Redbird Robotics team since her sophomore year. She has always been interested in encouraging oth- er girls involved in a field that is predominantly populated with boys. She was lucky enough to have coached a rookie FIRST Lego League (FLL) team called the RoboGirls. The RoboGirls consists of eight mid- dle school Girl Scouts from Allentown and Robbinsville. This was also part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project. With her experience, she wanted to expand middle school robotics teams, so she went to her high school advisor, Mr. Tackett, and the Superintendent Mr. Guterl with her idea. They encouraged her to pursue this within their school district, so she ap- plied for a grant to cover the costs of the supplies. In February 2020, Melissa was awarded a grant by the Upper Freehold Regional Education Foundation for $2,300.00 to start True North Robotics. Since middle school level robotics competitions have a limit of 10 team members per team, True North Robotics split into two smaller competition teams. One competition team is called True North Robotics Impact and has eight students (Aaryan Desai, Ioanna Varouhakis, Vishek Desai, Luke Greenbaum, Taylor Lalla, Elena Mathew, Theo Renzulli, Jeremy George) , and the other competition team is called True North Robotics Innovation and has six students (Sean Gavin, Mia Laudien, Remy Fortsch, Aarav Patnaik, Benjamin Utset, Sienna Jones). Each of the smaller group team names are named after the Core Values of FIRST: Discovery, Innovation, Impact, Inclusion, Teamwork, Fun, Coopertition, and Gracious Professionalism The name of the middle school team, True North Robotics, unites Stone Bridge Middle School’s motto of “Finding your True North” with the students’ passion for robotics. With the guidance of high school students on Redbird Robotics, 14 middle school students have learned programming, building, and teamwork skills while having a successful rookie season this year so far. On Feb. 13th, True North Robotics did an outstanding job at the virtual Qualifying Event competition and headed to the Southern NJ District Champi- onship competition this past April. The team received the Robot Design Award, Breakthrough Award, and was second place for the Rising Star Award. At the Qualifying Event, the students placed fifth and sixth in the robot challenge game. Participating teams were judged on four different components during the competition including the Robot Game, a Robot Design Presentation, an Inno- vation Project Presentation, and a Core Values activity. For the Robot Game and Robot Design, the team built and programmed two different robots made out of Legos to complete a series of obstacles in 2.5 minutes. For the Innovation Project, True North Robotics invented and created prototypes of special swimming gear to help prevent swimmer’s ear and a mobile gym to encourage everyone to be more active. What makes this team unique compared to other middle school robotics teams is that this team is 100% student run. Shane Conlin, Amelia Tricker, and Liam Granaghan are current high school students on Redbird Robotics and have been helping the True North Robotics team this season. Mr. Guterl, Mrs. Folino and Mr. Myslinski have also been a great support for the team since its start. It has certainly been a team effort to get this team to run successfully. The nonprofit organization FIRST stands for, ‘For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.’ FIRST runs many types of robotics competi- tions for different grade levels from Pre-K through 12th grade. Both True North Robotics and Redbird Robotics are FIRST robotics competition teams. True North Robotics’s competition level is called FIRST Lego League, and Redbird Robotics’s competition level is called FIRST Robotics Competition. It has been quite an experience for Melissa to start up a new competitive robotics team during a pandemic. The season kicked off in the summer of 2020 with online meetings. Students learned several skills like coding a robot, building robots, robotics competitions, the culture of the FIRST organization, and high school robotics. The end of the summer was also spent meeting in-person to build robots and obstacles made out of Legos. Safety measures, such as social distancing, and sanitizing, were practiced at every single meeting. Both online and in-person meetings were held four days a week throughout the school year. Usually the competition season for middle school robotics starts in August and ends in December. But with it being a new team in a pandemic, this year’s season started in June and continued until some time in April. Soon, Melissa and the team will start planning for next year’s season. Melissa is also an active member of The Varsity Girls Golf Team, high school newspaper editor, high school yearbook club, Business Academy, Peer Lead- ers, Jazz Band, Leo Club, Redbirds Got Talent, Girl Scouts, FIRST National Advocacy Conference, National Honors Society, Math National Honors Society, Science Honors Society, English Honors Society, Spanish Honors Society, and the History Honors Society. She also enjoys tutoring several students in all levels of math. She has been taking several AP classes last year and this year. Congratulations Melissa for all of your accomplishments. We have no doubt that you will have a future full of them! True North Robotics

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