DUTCHESS COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Red Hook High School robotics team -- the RoboRaiders -- recently captured a championship award for outstanding community service when they competed at the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Robotics World Championships in St. Louis.
The RoboRaiders were one of only a handful of teams from New York and 128 teams from all over the U.S. and 10 foreign countries to compete during the event.
The student-run team has been successful at local, regional, and state contests for the past four years, and this was their first opportunity to compete at the national and international level.
The team placed 30th out of 64 teams in their division and also won the Higher Priorities Award. According to the 36 judges, the team won for their outreach work and for helping others.
"Outreach and helping others is a priority for all FIRST teams. The judges were particularly impressed by this team that interrupted their robot build for over a month in order to improve a motorized transportation solution for a pre-school student at their school with congenital mobility impairment," the judges said.
Lead programmer for the team, junior Katelin Zichittella, also was honored as Dean’s List finalist.
The team consists of 15 high school students from grades 9 to 12 including seniors Alex Gonnella, Ben Kocik, Dan Monarchi, Alexandra Piaget, and Colin Pierce; juniors Mia Barbuto, and Katelin Zichittella ; sophomores Simon Dantzic, Jack Marcotte, Nick Urbin, and freshmen Jacqueline Kocik, Evan Maurer, Kevin McCrudden, and Alexandra Snyer.
"I've only been part of the RoboRaiders for a year, but already I've learned a great deal. Our team has worked so hard this season, and when we found out that we were going to the World Championships, we were so excited," said Alexandra Snyder, a freshman. "It was almost surreal. Worlds was everyone's dream, everyone's fantasy."
The students have been working since September to design, build, and program the robot to compete in this year's FTC game “Velocity Vortex.” In addition to building the robot, the team has performed more than 800 hours of community service and outreach to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education in the community.
"The team has worked very hard throughout the whole season," said senior Ben Kocik. "This is the best robot we have made compared to the last four years' versions. To see the team advance to this level of competition is huge."
The team is coached by Red Hook High School science teachers Yvonne Pierce and Dwane Decker, with volunteer mentoring provided by IBM employees Stephen Kocik and Susan Zichittella.
"I volunteered to mentor the RoboRaiders to contribute to the breadth of learning FIRST robotic teams are exposed to," explained parent volunteer Susan Zichittella. "In my experience, it provides more exposure to STEM, leadership, teamwork, and overall business than most single activities in college, while building a foundation for high school students to do the work themselves."
The RoboRaiders team is funded primarily by local sponsors and is asking for donations to help with the cost of attending the World Championships. Donations can be made at www.GoFundMe.com/FTC6567 .