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.