Times of Trenton – Letters to the Editor

This is from the Times of Trenton Letters to the Editor, originally published May 1, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the original letter on their site.

For robotics competitor, graciousness was automatic

I thank The Times for “A robotics resurgence — Area high school teams show engineering and design prowess in annual robot competition” (April 29), about the FIRST competition in St. Louis. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) has teams from all over the world competing in building and problem-solving competitions from elementary through high school.

This year’s challenge was to build a robot that could shoot basketballs and balance on a bridge. We were very proud of our daughter and her teammates (Team 2016), who represent Ewing High School and the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf. After a short, six-week build season, they placed second at the Hatboro-Horsham and Rutgers District competitions, second at the District Competition at Temple and made it to the quarter-finals at a regional competition in New York City.

Securing their place at the nationals in St. Louis was wonderful, but getting there proved challenging, as our transportation plans fell through. To the rescue came Team 25 Raider Robotix of North Brunswick High School, who graciously provided seating for our drive team and transport for some vital equipment.

FIRST robotics promotes more than competition. Teams are encouraged to show cooperation and gracious professionalism as well — the team that you are competing against in one match may be your alliance partner in the next. Anyone who has been to one of these competitions is impressed as much by the spirit of friendly competition as by the engineering of the robots.

We would like to offer a great big THANK YOU to Team 25 Raider Robotix. Not only did they show gracious professionalism, but they also won first place at the St. Louis competition.

— Shawn and Brian Volz,

Raider Robotix Team Wins World Competition

Originally published on the front page of The Sentinel May 3, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Raider Robotix Team Wins World Competition
(no byline appeared)

North Brunswick Township High School’s Raider Robotix Team 25 won the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) world championship competition this past weekend.

Four hundred teams from the United States, Brazil, Israel, Canada, Taiwan and Mexico participated at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis from April 25 to 28. All teams qualified for the championship either by winning at district or regional competitions over the past several months.

The teams were divided into the Einstein, Archemedes, Curie and Newton divisions. The winning alliance of each division faced off against the other division winners for the title of champion. The challenge was to score points during a robot basketball game.

North Brunswick was aligned with Team 180 S.P.A.M. from Stuart, Fla., and Team 16 Bomb Squad from Mountain Home, Ark. The alliance won 2-0 in the semifinals and finals of each competition.

“The competition was absolutely crazy, especially on the Einstein field. Seeing and hearing tens of thousands of people cheering for us was so intense and thrilling. It was so loud and energetic and I hope to experience it again next year,” Joey Ikuss said.

“Competing against the best robots in the world in front of thousands of cheering people was truly amazing and is something I will never forget. Not only that, but seeing our team’s hours of work pay off on the highest level was truly inspiring,” his brother, Tommy Ikuss, said.

Raider Robotix has now won each of the four world championship divisions, and will display a flag from each along with their new World Champion banner. The team previously won the world championship in 2000.

The team is sponsored by Bristol-Myers Squibb, Day Tool Co., J.C. Penney of East Brunswick, the North Brunswick Township Board of Education and the Raider Robotix Parent Mentors.

Robotics Team Earns National Title

Originally published by myCentralJersey.com – A Gannett Company – on May 1, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Robotics Team Earns National Title
Written by Gene Racz, Staff Writer

NORTH BRUNSWICK — North Brunswick High School’s robotics team captured its second national championship this past weekend in St. Louis, where its mechanical creations excelled in the “Rebound Rumble.”

North Brunswick’s robots outperformed the competition by outscoring them by shooting miniature basketballs into tiny hoops and playing superior defense on a tabletop court. The skills challenge featured about 400 teams from around the world.

The competition, which began with 2,343 teams in 12 countries, was held by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). The nonprofit organization, founded in 1989 by inventor Dean Kamen, has a stated mission to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

North Brunswick’s team, called Raider Robotix, teamed up with a school from Stuart, Fla., and a school from Mountain Home, Ark., in the finals, which were conducted over three days at the Edward Jones Dome.

“The robotic club is like our ambassadors from North Brunswick who reflect our students’ capabilities,” said North Brunswick High School Principal Pete Clark. “We’re very proud that they carried the name of North Brunswick to St. Louis and were very successful. There’s a tremendous amount of time and effort put in, sometimes seven days a week with somebody always working or doing something.”

North Brunswick school officials said students on the active robotics team list who played integral roles at the championships were Mohanish Shinde, Sue Pedapudi, Tommy Ikuss, Damian Plavnicky, Harrison Kaye, Joseph Ikuss, Tori Schamper, Michael Zimmerman, Michelle Wong and Tristan Tushinski. The coaches were Wayne Cokeley, Ernest Weiss and Robert Goldman.

Raider Robotix was founded in 1997. In 2000, after hosting an open house, the local Bristol-Myers Squibb office agreed to lend financial and technical support to the team.

The team won the national championship that year. Since 2000 Bristol-Myers Squibb has supported the team by providing funds and mentors with machining capabilities.

“It’s a tremendous accomplishment, and it’ s also a tremendous community accomplishment,” Clark said. “Bristol- Myers is the one who helps support it by providing technical help and funding, and then there is the work of the parents, the coaches and, of course, the kids.”

Raider Robotix team continues its winning streak

Originally published on the front page of The Sentinel April 26, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Raider Robotix team continues its winning streak
Team 25 heads to world competitions this weekend in St. Louis
by Jennifer Amato, Staff Writer

Attempts to climb

The Raider Team 25 robot attempts to climb up to get a basketball during the District Championship game at Mount Olive High School earlier this month. Last week the North Brunswick Township High School team placed first in the Mid-Atlantic regional. They will now travel to St. Louis for the world championships this weekend. PHOTO COURTESY OF DAMIAN PLAVNICKY

The North Brunswick Township High School Raider Robotix Team 25 won the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on April 15.

During that weekend, 54 teams competed at Temple University in Philadelphia in the “Rebound Rumble” event. Three teams on two alliances had to shoot a basketball into a hoop for points; the top basket was three points, the middle basket was two points, and the bottom one was worth one point.

There were also points awarded for stacking robots of the opposing alliance onto a coopitition (cooperation despite competition) bridge in the middle of the field. The bridge could fit only two robots, but Team 25 was able to stack three robots five out of six times; the sixth time, they were illegally blocked by another team.

“It only took us about seven seconds to balance three robots. It took everyone else 15 to 20 seconds — if they [even could],” said pit crew member Tori Schamper.


The Raider Team 25 robot shoots a basketball into the basket during the District Championship game at Mount Olive High School. PHOTO COURTESY OF RICK PLAVNICKY

The team had to win two out of three finals matches to be considered the champions. They won the first game by a score of 100 to 57, and the second game by a score of 78 to 65.

In general, the team averaged more than 100 points per game throughout the entire competition. They also reached the highest unpenalized score in the nation, according to programmer and driver Michelle Wong.

They also had the second-highest scoring robot throughout the competition, according to pit crew and drive team member Joey Ikuss.

However, the season started out questionably. Since funding is down, team members had to travel to Kintnersville, Pa., for about six weekends to work with the Cybersonics team to build the robot.

The twinbots have their own individual modifications, which they built and tested in a barn outside the school.

“I think our robots do so well because we plan every part to make sure they fit together. It’s no guessing,” Schamper said.

This partnership helped North Brunswick even further because when their robot had a broken gear on the shooter mechanism, members of Team 103 brought a replacement part the next day.

“It’s interesting because we have a more successful team wins-wise … but they’re a Hall of Fame team,” said build and pit crew captain Tommy Ikuss, who is Joey’s brother. “They won the Chairman’s Award at a national competition [in 2004], which is the highest award.” Tommy Ikuss called them a “model team,” speaking very highly about the Cybersonics.

Besides doing so well in the Mid-Atlantic Regional, Team 25 won the Mount Olive FIRST Robotics District Competition in Flanders on April 1 in the final match by just one point in a “buzzer beater” at the very last second.

At the end of March, Team 25 competed in the Lenape District Event before moving to the quarterfinals as one of the top eight teams out of 42. From March 8-10, the team competed in the Orlando Regional at the University of Central Florida and was also selected to move on to the quarterfinals in an alliance with a top-seeded team.

Schamper and Tommy Ikuss both said that the team has continued to do well during the season — and has consistently done so over the past few years — because of the coaches, mentors and machinists who are involved.

“I’m very proud of them,” said Coach Wayne Cokeley. “It was a tough beginning of the season, but they pulled through really well.”

Team 25 will now advance to the world championships this weekend in St. Louis.

“This is truly the only varsity sport of the mind,” Tommy Ikuss said. “We still have the competitive side and the emotional side and you go for championships, but at the same time you have to have a scientist’s mind and think critically.”

Because travel and registration can cost up to $5,000 per event, students are fundraising by collecting shoes that will be shipped to Third World countries by Shoebox Recycling, which will pay the team 50 cents per pound. Donations can be dropped off at the high school, located at 98 Raider Road.

Also, a fundraising comedy basketball game against the Harlem Rockets will be held at 7 p.m. May 11 at the high school. Tickets are $7 in advance and $8 at the door. To purchase tickets, email RGoldman@nbtschools.org.

In addition, American Harvest on Route 130 donated part of their proceeds from all sales the weekend of April 21 and 22 to the team.

Anyone wishing to help defray funds with a monetary donation can email kayefam@optonline.net.

Robotics teams to vie for Region crown

Originally published by myCentralJersey.com – A Gannett Company – on April 13, 2012. While the link lasts, you can see the article on their site.

Robotics teams to vie for Region crown
Teams vie for Mid-Atlantic Region championship
– by Staff Writer

2011 New Jersey FIRST Robotics Competition

(#108432) Trenton, NJ 3/4/11 Teams compete during the 2011 New Jersey FIRST Robotics Competition at the Sun National Bank Center Friday March 4. Staff photo Tanya Breen

PHILADELPHIA — From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m today and Saturday, 13 Central Jersey FIRST Robotics Competition teams will compete in a 54-team event at the Mid-Atlantic Robotics Region Championship at the Liacouras Center, Temple University, in Philadelpia. The competition, “Rebound Rumble,” is open to the public and admission is free.

From this two-day competition, 12 teams will move forward to compete at the FIRST World Championships to be held April 26 to 29 in St. Louis.

The area robotics teams participating include Bound Brook High School, Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Hightstown High School, Hillsborough High School, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, Immaculata High School in Somerville, JFK Memorial in the Iselin section of Woodbridge, Middlesex High School, Montgomery High School, North Brunswick High School, Piscataway High School, St. Joseph High School in Metuchen, West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North and West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South.

“Rebound Rumble” is the FIRST version of basketball and its own “March Madness.” An alliance of three robots will compete against three other robots to pick up mini basketballs and shoot them into hoops at each end of the playing field to score points. Each end of the field has four baskets at different heights for the robots to shoot at and score — with points varying according to each basket’s height. At the end of the match teams can score additional points by balancing one or more robots on one of three “seesaw” bridges at the center of the playing field. Opposing teams can cooperate to balance one robot from each alliance on the center bridge for valuable extra points.

All 13 area teams earned their way to the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship by scoring qualifying points at two of five competitions held in March. Several of these teams distinguished themselves at those events. Most recently, the Hillsborough High School team won the highest honor, Chairman’s Award, at the Mount Olive High School competition. Also at that competition, the robotics team from North Brunswick was crowned champion, as it led its three-team alliance to the winner’s circle. The Montgomery High School team finished in second place as a member of a three-team alliance and won a Quality Award, while West Windsor-Plainsboro High School South won the Team Spirit Award. Immaculata High School was honored with a Judges’ Award.

Other teams that won honors at one of the five district events include Bound Brook High School, a member of the winning alliance at the competition at Rutgers University.

For more information on FIRST Robotics competitions, go to www.usfirst.org or www.midatlanticrobotics.com.

Aspiring engineer builds well-rounded background

Originally published in the January/February 2012 issue of The Banner. Written by Genesis Contreras, Opinions Editor.

Sue Pedapudi: Aspiring engineer builds well-rounded background in high school

Q: What clubs are you involved in and do you have any leadership positions in them?

A: FIRST Robotics (co-captain), marching band (section leader), National Honor Society (vice president), Chemistry Olympics (president), German Club (president), FBLA, Model UN, SGO, National German Honor Society and Asian American Club.At a glance...

Q: What college will you be attending come fall?

A: Most likely Georgia Tech for Aerospace Engineering.

Q: What led you to decide to pursue a career in Aerospace Engineering?

A: Being on the robotics team and being surrounded by technology and other engineers. I would love to emulate the teamwork and passion of the engineers that come in and mentor our team. Engineering is also a very in demand profession, and is very noble as well. I would love to work for NASA someday.

Q: Have you experienced any struggles that have shaped your personality or views?

A: In high school, it is not uncommon to lose friends, or feel betrayed by them. You should never let others put you down for their own enjoyment or satisfaction. My experiences in dealing with friends have helped me become a better person.

Sue Pedapudi

(right) Sue Pedapudi uses a drill to build a part of a robot used in competitions. Photos courtesy Sue Pedapudi.

Q: Are there any staff members that have made a positive impact in your life?

A: I would have to say Mr. Weiss, Mr. Goldman and Mr. Cokeley. Mr. Weiss is the reason I stayed on the robotics team. He showed me that if I put my mind to something, I can accomplish it. Mr. Goldman has been a great mentor and an eye for detail when it comes to robotics. Finally, Mr. Cokeley is not only the robotics coach, but a friend. He is the heart and soul of the robotics team and constantly drives the students to perform at the best of their ability. I cannot imagine my high school experience without him.

Q: What is your favorite class?

A: I’d have to say a tie between AP Biology/Honors Biology and Honors Physics. I just enjoy science classes in general.

Q: What has been your fondest memory at NBTHS?

A: Back in 2010 when I won my first robotics competition. I didn’t have very high expectations that year because I wasn’t sure how things would play out, but when we won it was amazing and ever since it has served as my inspiration for the work I do.

Q: What are you going to miss the most when you graduate?

A: I will definitely miss being in all the clubs I’m in because they are such a great way to meet new people, make new friends and explore different interests. But what I will miss the most are my friends. They say friendship isn’t about whom you have known the longest, it’s about who came and never left your side. I’ll never forget all the good times we have had together.

Q: What would say has been the greatest lesson you’ve learned in high school?

A: I think it’s been learning to prioritize. Being involved in so many clubs and activities, I had to pick and choose between certain things, because there was no way I could do everything at once. This started to affect my grades. That’s when I learned that grades matter above all, and that it is important to learn how to handle the responsibilities that are thrown at you without compromising something essential.

Q: What are you most looking forward to in the next few months?

A: The rest of the robotics season, especially championships in St. Louis. Also like every other senior, I’m looking forward to prom and graduation in June.

Q: Do you have any advice for future students?

A: I think students should get involved and stay involved. There are so many wonderful clubs and activities that students can take part in. The important thing is to commit to these activities and to not quit when things get bad. When you look back, you might regret not being more active. It is important to look back onto your high school years and not have regrets, knowing that you did everything you possibly could.