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Ossining Robotics Team Gears Up For St. Louis

OSSINING, N.Y. – The Ossining High School Engineering Club’s latest creation can not only move around and pick things up, but it’s also getting pretty good at shooting hoops.

In just six weeks, the engineering team and a few adult mentors built a robot from scratch to compete in the FIRST FRC Robotics Competition at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Each of the competition's 66 teams were tasked with building a robot that could pick up and shoot basketballs into hoops in a specialized court. While it is the club’s first year in the competition, they’re already turning heads after winning the Rookie All-Star Award at last weekend’s competition and becoming one of six teams selected to compete in the International FIRST Competition in St. Louis in April.

“When we first heard we’d have six weeks to build a robot to shoot hoops in this competition, the thought was that it was impossible. But not for these guys,” said Doug Albrecht, team mentor and Ossining High School physics teacher. “Three months ago, we didn’t have a screw driver to our name. It’s amazing how these kids and people in the community have come together and it was really great to be recognized for that.”

Albrecht said dozens of students in the club would come in each day after school working on programming, designing and building the team’s robot combining everyday items like snow shovels and bicycle gears with high-tech radio equipment. In total, 50 students each had a hand on creating the robot along with a few area mentors who previously worked at IBM.

Club president and senior Michael Lema, 18, said he was proud of the team’s effort in the competition.

“The group came together phenomenally and six weeks is not a lot of time but we came together,” Lema said. “I think winning the rookie award was really satisfying because we put in a lot of hard work on this.”

Eighteen-year-old senior David Earle, who worked on programming the robot, said the competition was a “fantastic opportunity” to get to work on actual robotics and engineering.

“When the robot drove for the first time, that was a really exciting moment for me because that was programming that I had personally worked on,” he said. “Getting to see that actually come to fruition was really rewarding.”

Freshman Rebecca said she hopes the team carries the torch as well in future years.

“We were all freaking out when we found out we won the award,” she said. “That’s something I definitely want to see us all do next year and maybe even place higher. But I think we’re going to do really well in St. Louis because I think we’ve learned a lot about what we need to do.”

Several local companies including Briarcliff Manor’s Tuscan Grille, IBM and JC Penney all contributed support, grants and funding totaling roughly $20,000 that provided the team with necessary supplies and funding for travel to competitions.

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