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Ossining Robotics Team Turns Heads in St. Louis

OSSINING, N.Y. – The Ossining High School Robotics Team was hoping to gain some attention at an international competition in St. Louis, Mo. After beating out more than 70 teams and receiving awards for recognition and team play, it seems the rookie group was able to do more than that.

The team won the Rookie All-Star Award at a regional competition in March and became one of six teams selected to compete in the International FIRST Competition last week in St. Louis. The team went up against dozens of championship teams from other regions around the globe and out of a pool of 100, placed 26th. While it was easy for some to look at the 25 teams they didn’t beat, team mentor and Ossining High School Physics Teacher Doug Albrecht said the team should be proud of where they ranked.

“There were European teams, Japanese teams, Canadian teams and almost all of them were champions. We were probably in the top 25 percent of all 400 teams. To place that high is quite an accomplishment for a first year team,” Albrecht said. “If there was one thing I could stress it’s that our kids were awesome. Every obstacle they came across they got through it and nothing fazed them. You could see a whole new generation of problem solvers being created.”

Albrecht was also quick to point out that the team of nearly 50 students had six weeks to build a robot from scratch, prepare it for a new competition involving shooting basketballs through hoops and at the same time gather enough money through fundraising to be able to compete in St. Louis.

“The district can’t fund it because they’re strapped on the budget so we were entirely funded by outside grants and support from our community,” Albrecht said, adding that the team received about $20,000 through fundraising and help from sponsors like Briarcliff Manor’s Tuscan Grille, JCPenney, Ossining MATTERS, Entergy and IBM.

Senior Rob McCarthy said he was also impressed with how far the team advanced in the competition and stressed the help of the sponsors.

“The sponsors were huge for us in getting as far as we did,” McCarthy said. “We had limited materials at the beginning and we couldn’t have done it without them. There was no right answer for what we did but I think we got pretty darn close to it.”

Club president and senior Michael Lema, 18, said he and other seniors plan to help next year’s class through mentoring.

“It was a huge memory and all of the hard work we put in definitely paid off,” Lema said. “I think more and more kids are getting interested in this now. But I also I think we’re losing a huge senior class in the club. So I know we’re going to do a lot to try and come back next year to keep it going.”

Sophomore Calvin Ocheltree said he’s hopeful more underclassman will be interested and continue to improve the program.

“I think it’s going to be a bit more challenging because we had so many seniors involved,” Ocheltree said. “I’m really interested in getting it going next year. We’re going to have to do a lot of work but I think we have the experience now.”

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