The Patchogue-Medford Robotics team may not have won this year at the National Robotics competition held in Atlanta, but they still came home with a trophy.
The team won the annual Sherman's Award, which honors them for their outreach work such as mentoring elementary and middle schools students, holding food drives and volunteering with local organizations. Most recently, the team held an E-Waste recycling day at Patchogue-Medford High School, where they collected broken computers, televisions, and cell phones for proper disposal.
"What our team does is try to make the biggest and best opportunities," said junior Michelle Mooney.
"Awards for community service and safety are given out as much as building robots," said sophomore Jesse Buonanno.
Team 329, their team number and name, previously competed at regional competitions at Hofstra and in New York City with a robot that they designed to compete in a soccer like game called "Breakaway," placing placed 14th out of 43 other teams at the Hoftstra competition. That was enough to earn them an invitation to the nationals to compete against teams not only U.S. teams, but teams from England, Brazil and even Haiti as well.
"Every group gets six weeks to build with the same equipment," said Danielle Voje, faculty advisor for the team.
Ten 329 built a machine that is able to kick soccer balls automatically and by remote control. Breakaway rules require the robot to be able to work with other robots to kick the soccer balls into one of the goals. In addition, robots can score extra points if they can grab a bar suspended over the field and lift themselves off of the ground.
According to Voje, the team is sponsored by Motorola, which pays $5,000 per competition. Tom Boehm, who works at Motorola and has children on the robotics team, helped secure that sponsorship.
The team also mentors other competing robotics schools, including one in Haiti. "This year we set up a webcam to talk to them," said Voje. They even mentor their neighboring competitors.
"We mentored Sayville and they ended up beating out Patchogue-Medford," said Mooney.
Voje also said the students have been able to receive scholarships and offers from colleges due to their experiences in robotics.