The Westhampton Beach robotics team surpassed expectations and placed second out of 66 teams at a competition in Manhattan earlier this month.
The team of 18 students spent six weeks designing and building a 130-pound robot that competed in a tense variation of a Frisbee game—hurling plastic discs into goals and climbing a pyramid structure to score points. Though they lost in the final round, the students said they were more than pleased with their success, especially as first-time participants in the New York Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.
Tony Kryl, the team’s coach, said Monday that he was “phenomenally” proud of his entire team. “They really pulled together,” he said.
Nick Panzarino, John Baker and Ryan Jaquin, all seniors, said the team stayed after school three nights a week for hours, sometimes until midnight or even 1 a.m., building, testing and modifying their robot, which is about 30-inches tall and 25-inches wide. Their team members, who range in age from 14 to 18, function like a well-oiled machine with each finding his or her niche, they said. Their squad boasts programmers, designers, builders, drivers and scouts, the latter of whom are responsible for scoping out the competition—a very important role, they explained.
On competition day, the teams compete in qualifying rounds in randomly placed three-on-three matches. The teams are then seeded based on how well they do, and the top eight become captains—choosing which teams they want to form alliances with for the final round. Westhampton Beach, called Hurricane PRIDE for their motto of “Polite, Respectful, Impulse control, Determination and Equity, was seeded seventh, but bested the other teams to compete in the final round against the fifth seed from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan.
The students agreed that they worked together to learn and teach themselves throughout the process of designing and building the robot. But this year, they were thankful for the support they received from mentors in the community who provided their time and knowledge, as well as financial support. The team isn’t supported by the school, and just the cost of registering for the competitions totals $9,000, and that does not include the cost of lodging and all their building supplies.
Mr. Kryl said he was very grateful for the long list of local sponsors who made the competition possible for the kids, including Rechler Equity, Caithness Long Island Energy Center, Complete Rehab, the Rotary Club of Westhampton and Epoch 5. The Hampton Jitney donated a bus to transport team members and their robot to the competition.
Mr. Kryl and students also expressed gratitude for the support of Westhampton Architectural Glass, owned by Bob Busking and Paul Siller, and Richard Goss, an engineer for the company who served as their mentor.
After school on Monday afternoon, the students reflected on the strategies that took them to the final round in New York City. But they have also set their sights higher. This weekend, they will compete in the Long Island Regional Competition at Hofstra University.
“We want to win it,” John said.