Newtown robotics team makes nationals

Twenty-three students from Newtown High School in Corona will travel to St. Louis from April 12-14 to compete in a national championship after winning a citywide basketball tournament using robots as players.
The Techtonics,the school’s robotics team, competed against 66 other schools, 16 of which were from other countries, in a regional championship on Saturday, March 17, at the Javits Center in Manhattan. For the first time in the school’s history, they won.
The team was given a kit of parts with instructions to build three robots that could perform specific tasks. The Techtonics named their robot Chen Lin Jr., after their captain, Chen Qing Tian, and New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin, who starred this season.
In the first 15 seconds of the basketball game, the robot had to shoot balls autonomously. Then students were able to operate the robot using computer controls, before having to shoot baskets themselves, and finally balancing their three robots on a balance beam to score an extra 40 points – winning the regional for the Techtonics.
The victory meant more for the school than the ability to build the best robot. It was a source of pride Newtown’s been lacking lately, as it is on the Education Department’s list of schools slated for closure next year due to what the city decided is sub-par performance.
Tian, a Bushwick resident and senior at the high school who plans to attend Brooklyn Polytech next year, said the team spent the first three weeks devising ideas on how to build the robot.
“I feel proud of my team members,” he said when asked how it feels to lead the regional winners. “It’s all about team work.”
The hardest part, he said, was programming the robot using “computer language.”
However, the team received help from two mentors from its sponsor Alliance Bernstein LP, a global asset management firm.
Matthew Quash, an Ozone Park resident and junior at Newtown High School, agreed that the hardest part of the competition was navigating the controls.
“The biggest challenge was all the hard work that we had to put into the robot,” he said. “And at the competition we didn’t have connection with the robot a couple of times, so we had to keep restoring connection.”
Quash was worked with the engineering half of the team during the six-week construction period. In the regional game he was a human player.
“My job was in the last 30 seconds to throw the balls into the other team’s hoops to try to score points,” he said.
Quash added that his interest in robotics was sparked in engineering class, taught by Peter Paolino, who told him how much he would learn and how good it would look on his resume.
Next, the team has to raise $25,000 to send themselves to St. Louis for the national championship.
To do so, they are holding bake and candy sales, and will host a robotics concert at their school on the evening of April 20.
To donate to the Techtonics, make a check out to Tech Robotics and mail it to Newtown High School, 48-01 90th Avenue, Corona, New York 11373.

Photos compliments of the Techtonics.

New York State one step closer to full casino gaming

The odds are looking like they’re in the state’s favor when it comes to legalizing casino gambling.
Full-scale casino gaming could come to New York State in the future as both the Senate and Assembly recently passed the first round of legislation in favor of expanding state regulations and amending the state’s constitution to allow full casino gaming.
“It is a step closer to having our residents vote on a referendum that could bring full gaming to the state,” said State Senator Joe Addabbo, a member of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, in a statement. “It is a step closer for my constituents to have thousands of additional job opportunities at Resorts World.”
Although Addabbo praised the legislature’s vote, he urged that lawmakers proceed forward from this point on in a cautious manner, and that they take into consideration community participation.
“I am an advocate for community input on these issues and feel most people would want their voices heard before any plans are implemented,” he said.
The vote is a significant step toward full gaming, especially for the Resorts World New York casino in South Ozone Park, whose operators have expressed in the past that they are eager to expand their operations if full gaming is allowed in the state.
Advocates of full gaming say that the benefits include increased revenue and massive job creation, in addition to providing stiff competition to out-of-state casinos in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.
“Enhancing gaming in New York by bringing table games to casinos will stimulate our economy, draw additional businesses into the state, and create opportunities for countless jobs, increased tourism and much-needed revenue,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder in a letter that he sent out to newspapers earlier this week. (Read the full letter on page 7.)
The amendment seeks to legalize enhanced gaming at no more than seven casinos around the state. According to lawmakers, the locations and details of the proposed seven casinos will be decided in 2013.
Goldfeder noted that he will work to advocate for Resorts World to receive one of the seven casino licenses.
“Resorts World has served as an eager and effective community partner, delivering on their promise of local jobs and serving as an economic engine for the region,” he said, touting their commitment to the community through monthly meetings with the 106 Precinct, Community Board 10 and elected officials to address neighborhood concerns.
The constitutional amendment to allow full-scale gaming would need to be approved once more by both houses in the Legislature and then by voters in a referendum for it to become law. That entire process could take three years.

Suspect in Maspeth hit and run may take plea deal

The Brooklyn man responsible for killing a former Maspeth bar owner in a hit-and-run may be offered a three-and-a-half to seven-year plea deal from the Queens District Attorney, much to the dismay of the slain man’s family.
Peter Rodriguez, 37, was arrested last November and charged with killing George Gibbons, the 37-year-old owner of The Gibbons’ Home, a popular bar located on 69th Street in Maspeth, on the morning of Saturday, October 15, 2011.
He then fled to Connecticut, where he was later arrested.
Rodriguez was allegedly behind the wheel of a car that was going the wrong way down the Long Island Expressway service road at 58th Road when he collided with a livery cab that Gibbons was riding in.
“We’re not happy,” said Gibbons’ younger sister Bernadette, who has attended all of Rodriguez’ court cases with other members of her family.
Gibbons added that her family would prefer Rodriguez get life without parole.
She said the only time she saw her brother’s killer, so far, was at his arraignment.
Rodriguez faces a series of charges, including second-degree manslaughter, leaving the scene of an accident and criminally negligent homicide.
The most serious charge of manslaughter carries a sentence of anywhere from three to 15 years in prison.
This is not the first time Rodriguez has been in trouble with the law. Since 1992 he was charged with 10 felonies and nine misdemeanors, according to records obtained by this paper. He was convicted on four of the felony charges and two of the misdemeanors.
The case was adjourned until April 20 at 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., when Rodriguez is expected to formally be offered a plea, according to sources close to the case. He will then be sentenced on May 4, when the Gibbons family will also make a statement.
“It’ll influence him when he does come up for parole,” Gibbons said. “At least now we know the next [court] day is going to be substantial.”

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